A few games into the playoffs, and there's already so much to talk about, so I figured I'd put in my two cents and try to jumpstart a discussion. Most of these thoughts are focused on the Bulls, but there've been some great stories all around the league, so I wanted to mention a few of those. Let me know some things I should have mentioned in the comment section.
- The Bulls have a chance
Without Garnett, the Celtics just aren't contenders, plain and simple. The Bulls are playing great on fastbreaks, the D hasn't been awful, and the young Bulls have played pretty well. Rose and Rondo are so damn quick and talented that neither one can cover the other, so they're going to continue to have big games throughout this series. Noah and Tyrus need to do a better job keeping Rondo out of the lane, but other than that I've been very impressed with both of them (Noah was outstanding against Perkins in Game 1). Perkins is too damn strong for these Bulls, but Noah has held his own and continues to clean the boards. Double teaming Perkins the second he gets the ball would be a good idea, as it would force him to think fast and would reduce the likelihood of him just backing down Noah until he's at the rim (that's not Noah's fault, the guy's just a load). Allen won't have any more stinkers like Game 1, but I don't think he'll have another Game 2 either. If the guards keep up their play, if we reduce are turnovers and capitalize on Boston's, and if we avoid getting killed on the boards, then I like our chances.
2. Powe's injury makes me smile
Admittedly that's a twisted statement, but Mikki Moore sucks donkeyballs, and Glen Davis' Game 2 was a fluke, so Perkins is going to have to clean the boards by himself for the most part. If Noah or Miller box him out, that frees up Tyrus (or Noah if Miller's at center) to collect boards, provided they keep Rondo from sneaking in and cleaning up (which he has done too much so far). When Noah and Miller are in there together, expect us to have a lot more second chances on offense. On a similar note, Tyruse needs to play in the 4th. He was great in Game 1, and his blocking was good in the first half, so why not let him swat shots in the 4th when the Celtics are tired and more vulnerable to Tyrus' block parties? Miller gets tired, and a rested Tyrus plays much better than an exhausted Miller. That's just comon sense.
3. Where are the SF's?
So far, Pierce has been OK and Salmons was decent yesterday, but neither has been close to their usual levels of performance. Salmons is clearly not himself, and I wouldn't mind seeing the 3 guard lineup. Using Tyrus at the 3 would also be another idea, which would further help the rebounding cause and frustrate Perkins. Salmons still needs to play, but he can't play over 30 minutes in his condition and still be expected to contribute at his highest level. I think Pierce is going to kick it up a notch, so whoever is playing the 3 will have to step it up.
4. There've been some outstanding solo efforts around the league
Chauncey Billups was immaculate the other night. 8-9 from 3 point range? Holy crap. Eight assists and 0 turnovers? Incredible. Billups is a born winner, and I can't recall many performances that have impressed me more this season. Tony Parker's 38 points on 22 shots in Game 2 with Dallas, Yao's manhandling of Portland (9-9 shooting, 6-6 from the line, with 9 boards, just one turnover, and 12 crushed souls), and LeBron's flalwless display of 38 points (on 20 shots and 11-14 shooting from the line), 8 boards, 7 dimes, and 0 turnovers were some of the standout performances of this very young playoff season.
Now, back to the Bulls. Rose in Game 1 was unstoppable. Rondo's a quick little bugger, but he had no chance. Then Rondo comes back the next game (after a helluva Game 1, mind you) and erupts for a triple double. I will say that Rondo outhustled us in Game 2 and should not have gotten some of those boards and buckets, but he did, so hats off to him.
The Gordon/Allen duel in Game 2 was a display of pure shooting perfection. Hands in their faces, twisting and turning from all angles, finding space in impossible situations, these two simply would not be stopped. Both guard matchups have been a real pleasure to watch.
5. The title looks like a two-horse race
Boston sure as hell doesn't look like a contender any more, and, as Kelly Dwyer mentioned after the Game 1 loss to Philly, Orlando has really been overachieving since Nelson's injury (and like he says, that's not a swipe at Orlando). Nobody in the West will seriously challenge the Lakers, so I'd be shocked if we don't see a Cavs-Lakers championship series. And the mouthwatering idea of Kobe vs. LeBron for a best-of-7... well, it , um, makes my mouth water.
6. When Marbury/Moore are in, we need to make Boston pay
Marbury cannot cover any of our guards, so whoever he covers needs to go to town on his shoddy defense. He's also been pretty awful running Boston's offense, so I would like to see Hinrich in there whenever Marbury's in so we can force turnovers and get some easy buckets. Marbury is absolute garbage out there, and exploiting his inadequacy will pay all sorts of dividends for this Bulls team.
The same really goes for Moore. He works hard, but Noah's longer, more athletic, stronger, and more talented. That pretty much covers everything, but I'll just say Noah should have the ball in his hands whenever Moore's covering him, just so my point is crystal clear. Tyrus can do some real damage on Moore as well, but I would like to see Moore being forced to cover Noah whenever he steps on the court. Or he can try his luck on Miller if he wants, but Miller's going to feast on the glass if that's the case, and he'll just back Moore down until he gets to the rim on the other end (like Perkins does). I can't stress point #6 enough: when Marbury or Moore are on the court, the Bulls need to exploit their worthlessness.
I apologize for this article's complete lack of coherence, but, like I said, they're just a few observations to spark a general playoff discussion. Let me know what you've noticed, as well as your ideas for how the Bulls can take this series with Boston.