Up 1-0, the Bulls have accomplished winning one of the first two games. However, with Smith suspended for one more game, might as well be greedy and steal another.
In breaking news, LeBron returns to wear the headband! Does this unleash a more aggressive James, or will we see the same inconsistent jumper, and isolation plays from Game 1?
Will Cleveland have a defensive strategy for defending the Gasol pick and pop from the top of the key? What about the Dunleavy corner 3s? How often will James rest from guarding Butler? Will they sag off Noah even more to dare him to shoot?
Snell got limited playing time in favor of Hinrich. Mirotic had few chances as well. Both were due to the big early lead and the play of the starters. Wouldn't mind seeing more Gibson-Gasol, where Noah is pulled at the 6 minute mark.
Do they switch Shumpert on Rose earlier? The Bulls opened with a better pace but stagnated once the subs started.
Bulls had a low turnover game, and James had a high turnover game. Bulls had fewer free throws for most of the game.
Keys to the game? Fast pace, but not sloppy. Look to run. Limit turnovers and second chances and hopefully they'll have the Cavs in an 0-2 hole.
Atlanta vs Washington - Atlanta in 6
Golden State vs Memphis - Golden State in 5
Chicago vs Cleveland - Chicago in 6
Houston vs Los Angeles - Houston in 6
So we're finally here again. Has it really been 5 years since the Bulls played in the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and it felt like we were going to be in it every year?
A lot has changed, a lot of new faces, and some rumors of familiar faces leaving.
If there is one optimistic/delusional thing that I can hold on to, it is the fact that the organization, including the coaching staff, despite the public appearance or perception has taken a very conservative approach to handling injuries. In past seasons, players have fought through injuries to win regular season games, only to have those injuries reduce their effectiveness in the playoffs. Keep in mind that the Bulls still won 50 games this season.
All that matters now is how well they do in the playoffs. Realistically, the minimum expectation is to advance easily out of the first round. Optimistically, it will be to compete and possibly beat the presumed best team in the East in the second round, if both teams advance. After that, anything is possible!
Here's some player projections/notes going into Round 1.
(Disclosure: Updated to add Taj!)
Sorry for the radio silence, but we're back!
Let's start off with some quick predictions for Round 1.
#1 Golden State vs #8 New Orleans - Golden State in 5
Expect Anthony Davis to make a statement in this series, and to help steal a game in New Orleans.
#2 Houston vs #7 Dallas - Houston in 7
Coaching will keep Dallas in this series, but despite the injuries, Houston should prevail.
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs #6 San Antonio - San Antonio in 7
Will the difference in home court ultimately make a difference here? Tough to pick against San Antonio as they have been playing at a high level going into the playoffs.
#4 Portland vs #5 Memphis - Memphis in 6
Without Wes Matthews, Portland has been at a disadvantage. Memphis should be able to close this out in fairly bland fashion.
#1 Atlanta vs #8 Brooklyn - Atlanta in 4
I expect low ratings and low highlights in this series.
#2 Cleveland vs #7 Boston - Cleveland in 5
Could Boston steal a game 3 or 4 at home? The first two games in Cleveland will not be pretty.
#3 Chicago vs #6 Milwaukee - Chicago in 5
My initial instinct suggests that this will be a sweep. The casual fan impression is that this will be a defensive struggle. The reality is that the Bucks are strong at defense, weak at offense. The Bulls are strong at defense and offense this season. Presuming full strength, the series will be fun and competitive and over in 5 or less games.
#4 Toronto vs #5 Washington - Toronto in 7
Will Washington rediscover their playoff magic from last season? Both teams have higher expectations than last season's playoff appearances, but one of these two will be going home unhappy.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch decided to immediately release as much evidence as possible to the general public immediately after the decision not to indict Darren Wilson:
Was this an attempt to be completely transparent? Or cynically, was this an attempt to further step away for taking responsibility for the duties of his office? Rather than make the decision and have it clearly on his office, and largely him, he offloaded it to a grand jury who we will never meet. Additionally, by releasing the information to people that don't typically look at this information, and allowing them to make their own decisions, it increases the amount of noise on the discussion, further diluting his role in all of this. That's the cynical way to look at it.
One piece from the packet of interest, is Darren Wilson's testimony.
After 108 days, tonight will mark the hopeful beginning of the healing process for the community of Ferguson. The Ferguson grand jury has made a decision in whether to pursue a criminal indictment of Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.
No matter where you stand on this, tonight's response to the decision will come down to a matter of trust.
Does the community trust that the grand jury was impartial, fair and thorough in its decision?
Does local and state law enforcement trust that people will peacefully express their freedom of speech, no matter the result, no matter the presence of the National Guard?
Does anyone trust the decision making process that allowed the announcement to be made at night? Low light and visibility appears to favor those that will abuse their rights to protect or protest under the cover of darkness and the shadows of chaos.
I hope and pray for the best. I still trust that people feel the same as I do.