Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pick Your Poison

After Kevin's post this morning I decided to think (somewhat) critically about which team I would rather see the Bulls play in the playoffs: Orlando or Boston. Here our are records against both this season:

Orlando: 1-3 (1-1 at home)
Boston: 1-2 (1-0 at home)

I guess you could argue that we really don't "want" to play either of the two because they both had success against us this season. But since that's a weak stance to take I'll actually pick one.

The case for playing Orlando and wanting the 6th seed:

Orlando should be the team you want to face because they are the lower seed and, logically, lower seed = less wins = lesser opponent. So that's a (weak) cut and dry argument for wanting to play Orlando.

A more substantive argument would be that Orlando is limping into the playoffs losing 4 of their last 5 and 5 of their last 10. Whereas, the Bulls are probably the hottest team in basketball not from Ohio. Orlando had been in the running for the #2 spot until recently, so the fact that they had the #3 locked down in the past 5 games could be the reason for their slide. But the Magic do not have a history of being able to "turn it on" when the playoffs start a la the Spurs and early 2000s Pistons. Howard in particular doesn't seem to have that killswitch in big games yet, it's just not his disposition. So if the Bulls are able to stay hot and Orlando finds it hard to right the ship, the Bulls could be looking at a potential first round upset.

Other factors:

- Skip to My Lou is their point guard and you have to love that matchup against Rose

- Hedo and Lewis are "hurt" right now...not enough to keep them out, and probably no more than many players at this time of year so it may or may not be a factor

- the Bulls are 1-1 against the Magic since the Salmons trade and Miller as an extra body/experience to throw at Howard could pay dividends in a playoff series

Howards stats vs the Bulls: 19.5 ppg, 12.5 rb, 2.5 blk, 64% from the field (all in 31 mpg)

Hedo's stats vs. the Bulls: 14.7 ppg, 6.7 rb, 4.3 ass, 34.7% from the field (but 41% from 3)

Lewis' stats vs. the Bulls: 13.8 ppg, 7 rb, 33% from the field

I bolded those two stats because they are probably one of the biggest concerns about playing the Magic...when you double Howard, which the Bulls will likely have to do, you leave their shooters open and they have a lot of shooters.

The case for playing Boston and the 7th seed:

Boston has been the better team overall than Orlando all season (although Orlando, like the Bull, have recently beaten them). However, I think they peaked too early. Remember all the talk of the Celtics (as well as the Cavs or Lakers) making a run at 72-10? It was really annoying, but for awhile the C's were winning just about every game they suited up for. But since then they've been playing very well, but not as well, and have had to deal with injuries. Most importantly the Garnett injury. As any sportswriter, especially those named "Bill Simmons" will tell you, Garnett is the catalyst for the Celtics success. He's their heart and soul. They are a different team with him healthy and on the floor. In a nut shell, Garnett is the anti-Larry Hughes. So without a healthy Garnett contributing, they aren't the same team who beat the Bulls twice this season.

Which leads to my next point, the C's have only played us once since the Salmons/Miller trade. The Bulls disposed of the Celtics 127-121 that night. Which is interesting not only because the Bulls won, but because they dropped 127 on what is widely considered one of the better defensive teams in the league (2nd to Cleveland at 93.2 ppg allowed). The addition of a bigger 2 guard and another big body may have helped to close the gap between the Bulls and Celtics. Salmons can handle some of the duties of guarding Pierce when we go small and can guard Allen on the perimeter when he's playing the 2. And, just like with Orlando, a veteran big man in Miller is always a positive come playoff time. Noah and TT have been playing great lately but they don't have the same experience as Brad. Furthermore, the first win the Celtics had against the Bulls was on 10/31 and was the second game (first road game) of the season and of Derrick Rose's career. Any Bulls fan, or NBA fan, can tell you the leaps and bounds Rose has made since that game. He's not the same player now. A matchup between Rondo and Rose would be worth the price of admission.

Other factors:

- The C's are old...can their legs hold up to a second straight playoff run?
- Garnett is a huge question mark...his ppg have dropped to 9 in April and peaked in December...he's only played 10 games in the last two months.

Garnett vs. the Bulls: 17.5 ppg, 7.5 rb, 63% from the field
Allen vs. the Bulls: 19.3 ppg, 48% from the field/45% from 3
Pierce vs. the Bulls: 22.3 ppg, 6.7 rb, 56% from the field/57% from 3
Rondo vs. the Bulls: 14.7 ppg, 10.3 ass, 55% from the field

From these stats it's pretty clear the Bulls have a tough time defensively against the Celtics and in particular against Pierce.


After giving some analysis to this, it appears either option for the Bulls won't be an easy road. Orlando has really dominated the Bulls in a couple games this year. And the Celtics are the reigning champs and the 3rd best team in the NBA.

When it comes down to it, I feel that the combination of Garnett's health, the ability of the Bulls to match up since the Salmons/Miller deal, and the fact that I feel the C's peaked already has me slightly leaning towards wanting to play the Celtics. I think we can give them more of a challenge and have a better chance of upsetting them from the 7th slot than the Magic from the 6th.

Bulls in 7. But don't hold me to it.


2j said...

Love the Bull, hate the Vinny - so I'm torn. I guess we have to be happy with the playoffs and worry about the lack of coaching later.

Kmart said...

Great points DC. Very solid analysis. To me it's virtually a coin flip.

I agree that the Bulls could take a banged up Celtics team to 7, but if Garnett does come back healthy, do the Bulls really stand a chance? I doubt it, especially when you consider the Bulls will have to win one in the New Garden and the refs will undoubtedly lean towards the star-studded defending champs the entire series.

I think one thing that favors an Orlando matchup in their youth. They are rather inexpirienced compared to the C's and I think with their lack of a 4th quarter "killshot" game changer, they could fold down the stretch and possibly give away a game in Orlando, making a Bulls series victory plausible.

With the above mentioned doesn't Ben Gordon make perfect sense for the Magic? A two guard who can knock down open looks at a ridiculous rate and create his own shot. Would he not dominate in that system and make them a title contender?

Jameer, BG, Hedo, Rashard, Howard? Scary thought.

2j said...

That makes their backcourt ultra-small - it could work because of the shooters (especially around Superman) but I have my doubts. Teams that depend on the 3 (as the current Magic do and that team would even more) never seem to do great in the playoffs.

You're better off with a good defensive team, good home-court advantage, and a go-to player to finish games (sound like this years Cavs at all??)

DC said...

honestly Kmart I went into this post whole-heartedly feeling I wanted the Bulls to play the Celtics...but after reading up on it, despite the fact that Orlando worked the Bulls a couple times this year, I wasn't as convinced by the end...still leaning towards Boston, but not by as much

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