Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 1:23 p.m.
By Mark Schanowski
So, how many games do you think it will take the Bulls to win their first round series against Indiana? Please post your comments in the section below.
I'm thinking five right now. The Pacers showed enough improvement after the coaching change from Jim O'Brien to Frank Vogel that they should get one game in the series, but unless the Bulls struggle with opening round jitters, they should be able to wrap things up in Game 5 at the United Center.
Looking at the match-ups, Indiana does have some size up front that could cause the Bulls some problems in 7-2 center Roy Hibbert and 6-10 power forward Josh McRoberts. McRoberts had a big game against the Bulls back in January, but he's coming off the bench right now with former college player of the year Tyler Hansbrough getting the bulk of the minutes at the power forward spot. Remember, it was Hansbrough who got Indiana off to a fast start in their one victory over the Bulls last month, showing much improved range and accuracy on his jump shot.
Indiana has a former All-Star at the small forward spot in Danny Granger, but he's a high volume shooter who often hurts his team with poor shot selection and decision-making. With potential All-Defensive team small forward Luol Deng guarding Granger, I'm not too worried about him taking over games in this series. And, on the other end of the floor, Deng's ability to hit the three-point shot and go hard to the basket could get Granger in foul trouble since he's not really good at moving his feet on the defensive end.
In the backcourt, the Bulls will always have a huge advantage with the soon-to-be MVP Derrick Rose. As Stacey King would say, Rose is too big, too strong, too fast and too good for Darren Collison to handle. Collison has been a real nice pick-up by the Pacers, and he is one of the quicker point guards in the NBA. But he's too small to handle Rose on his drives to the basket, and if Tom Thibodeau wants to get creative, he could post up Rose on Collison, and possibly force the Indiana coaches to get their floor general off the court.
Indiana does have a number of decent perimeter shooters in Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Brandon Rush and talented rookie Paul George. Rush in particular has hurt the Bulls in the past, and Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer will have to make sure they don't leave any of the Pacers shooting guards open for uncontested three's. Don't fall asleep on George. He's a guy the Bulls liked during pre-draft workouts last summer, but they knew he wouldn't be available at 17, and they wound up trading the pick in the cap-clearing Kirk Hinrich deal with Washington.
As for the benches, the Bulls might not have as big an advantage as you would think. The Pacers' second unit of Dunleavy, Rush, McRoberts, point guard A.J. Price and veteran center Jeff Foster can match-up pretty well with the Bulls' "Bench Mob". And, Indiana also has former Celtics' thug James Posey to call on if they want to take some hard fouls to try to get the Bulls out of their game.
The key for the Bulls is getting Kyle Korver off to a quick start. Hopefully, his 19-point performance in the regular season finale against New Jersey is a sign of things to come in the playoffs. Also, Taj Gibson is starting to play his best basketball again after battling nagging injuries most of the season, and don't forget about wily veteran Kurt Thomas. His toughness and perimeter shooting could come in handy against Hibbert in this series.
Bottom line, the games might be closer than you're expecting, but given the Bulls' stifling defense under Thibodeau, and Rose's burning desire to win, they should advance in five games to play the OrlandoAtlanta winner. The Hawks beat the Magic three out of four times during the regular season, but I'm looking for Dwight Howard and company to advance in six.
What do you think? Please post your comments in the section below.
We'll have all the games in the Indiana series on Comcast SportsNet. Buckle up for some exciting playoff basketball. It should be one heck of a ride.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.