Quantcast 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round One - Chicago vs Indiana


2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference First Round

(8) Indiana Pacers vs. (1) Chicago Bulls





As the journey to the NBA Finals commences, the landscape of the Eastern Conference is so very different from what it was 12 months ago. At this time last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers were once again everyone’s target. An injury-plagued Boston team that absorbed some bad late-season losses had not yet shown that it was ready to deliver the goods. Orlando, fresh off its 2009 Eastern Conference crown, was held in high regard, making the No. 2 seed in the East the favorite to return to the Finals.

Now, in 2011, a lot has changed. A team that wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen in last year’s chase for the championship has now made itself a prime contender for the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy.

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The Chicago Bulls were a No. 8 seed last year in the NBA postseason. This spring, they’ve vaulted to the top spot in their conference and will be on the opposite end of a 1-versus-8 first-round playoff series. First-year coach Tom Thibodeau, who helped the Boston Celtics win the 2008 NBA title as the primary assistant to head coach Doc Rivers, has brought his X-and-O acumen to the Windy City with stellar results. Thibodeau is a defensive guru, and it’s clear that his roster – bolstered by the offseason acquisitions of Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver – has bought into its new leader’s philosophy. The Bulls own the Most Valuable Player in the league, Derrick Rose, but this team’s commitment at the defensive end of the floor is what has made Chicago a top-tier contender in the East. Big man Joakim Noah is an exceptional rebounder and shot-blocker who has resided on the Chicago roster for four seasons, but it’s only been in this 2011 campaign that the two-time national champion from the University of Florida has enjoyed a considerable amount of help. Every Bull plays defense now, enabling Rose to become that much more of a difference maker at the offensive end of the floor.




As this first-round series with the Indiana Pacers begins, the key for Chicago is not just to win, but to do so in a manner that will keep Rose relatively fresh for the rounds ahead. The Bulls need a low-maintenance series before they play tougher teams at the top of the Eastern Conference. This means that Thibodeau’s defense needs to be at its best. Chicago needs to wear down the Pacers with initial-shot defense and then close down on the boards to deny the eighth seed any additional possessions. An effective series from Boozer and Brewer will do a lot to ensure that Rose doesn’t have to take 20 shots or score 30 points. Thibodeau and his assistants will want Rose to be a floor leader and delegator over the course of the first round, thereby allowing the Bulls to showcase a blended game and a balanced offensive attack that will be harder for future playoff opponents to defend. By becoming more difficult for opponents to scout, Chicago will transform its identity to an even greater degree and establish the kind of versatility which defines an NBA Finals participant. Indiana won fewer than 40 games this season, becoming just the latest No. 8 seed in the East to enter the playoffs with an anything-but-playoff-worthy record. The Pacers are expected to be nothing more than a speed bump for the Bulls in what is clearly the biggest mismatch in the entire NBA first round.


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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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