The playoffs are here. Finally. It seems like it’s been a long wait, but they officially begin on Saturday. There’s a whole bunch of interesting series that should unfold in the first round (with Miami vs. New York being the most interesting to me), but I’m actually focusing on a series that could be one of the more lopsided affairs in the playoffs: the top seeded Chicago Bulls going against the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
On paper, this might not be a bad match up. The 76ers are one of the few teams that have the depth to roll with Chicago on a nightly basis, and they play some tough defense too. But they’ve got their fair share of problems.
For starters, well…their starters can be a bit of an issue. They’re somewhat inconsistent and they lack any sort of a go-to guy in that lineup. The fact that their leading scorer and third leading scorer – Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young respectively – come off the bench show what kind of issues they have in their starting lineup. To their credit though, they do have eight players averaging at least eight points per game, so they have ability to get points from a lot of places.
Scoring, in general though, is tough for this team. And it’s going to be even tougher since they’re going against one of, if not the, best defensive team in the NBA. As it stands, they only score 93.6 points per night, good for 21st in the NBA in scoring. Meanwhile, the Bulls give up a whopping 88.2 points per game, which just so happens to be tops in the NBA for scoring defense. Oh yea, they’re also second in opponents field goal percentage, third in three opponents three point percentage, third in opponents rebounds per game, and tops in defensive efficiency. What I’m trying to say is that they’re good on defense…really, really good So for the 76ers, this is not a matchup made in heaven for them, despite what some of their players have been saying.
Speaking of players, Andre Iguodala is going to have to have a massive series for them to get by, or really even be competitive. He’s going to need help though, which he can certainly find. The question is though, will it be enough to contend with the Bulls?
While we mention the 76ers depth, the Bulls might arguably be the deepest team in the NBA, and that really neutralizes a big weapon that the 76ers have. While they don’t have explosive scorers off the bench like Philadelphia does, they’ve got guys who’ve proven they can get it done when they’re called upon, and that’s what matters. And the fact that Tom Thibodeau has so much confidence in that supporting cast also helps.
The great equalizer for this entire series though hinges on the health of one man – Derrick Rose. If he’s healthy, the 76ers have their hands full. As much as I like Jrue Holiday, the kid has no chance against a healthy Derrick Rose. Rose is just too big and too strong for Holiday to contend with, and far too quick for a guy like Evan Turner to defend. You also can’t easily slide over Iguodala, because then you make things a lot easier on Rip Hamilton or Luol Deng. It’ll be interesting to see how Doug Collins chooses to handle this situation, especially in crunch time.
Lastly, despite the brilliance of Doug Collins, the Bulls have the better coach in Thibodeau. And with how good both of these teams are on defense, I want the better coach in my corner. There’s going to be a lot of times when this series turns into a chess match and the better coach will be the key to victory. And while Collins is no slouch (as noted by the fact that he’s got this team above .500 and in the playoffs), I’m still going to take Thibodeau. He’s managed this team like no one else could have in the NBA, and he knows how to get the most out of his players at all times, and that’s going to be a huge factor in this series.
So prediction time. As you may have already seen, I’m taking the Bulls in five. I think their defense will be too much for a team that’s already lacking on offense. I think they have the superior coach in Thibodeau. And, if Derrick Rose is healthy, they have a player that only Iguodala can easily guard…and if that happens, then you have to worry about Deng or Hamilton.
In the end, there’s just too many question marks for the 76ers, and the Bulls are just too good.