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PLAYOFF Game Thread: Bulls vs. Pistons Game 1

First, thanks to Rick Morrissey for pointing out how lame of an idea the 'trash talk' or 'bulletin board material' that Andres Nocioni provided is this week.

There's not a whole lot of brashness in it. There's belief, which is what there should be after you've just finished sweeping the defending NBA champions.

The Pistons, of course, are taking offense because that's what athletes are conditioned to do. The Heat took offense, too-be careful what you wish for, Alonzo Mourning had said of Hinrich's stated desire to play Miami-and we're still waiting for them to come up with something in the way of a meaningful response.

This week has been too long. We'll know so much more about how these two teams fare tomorrow after they, ya know, play a game. It truly looks like an even matchup, and whatever advantage the Pistons get from 'being there before' the Bulls seem to mitigate by not giving a shit that they haven't, while taking one of their guys who has. We have seen before the insane production that Jason Kidd has gotten against his nemesis Scott Skiles, I wonder if something similar can happen with Ben Wallace against Flip Saunders.

As like against Miami, the Bulls need to make the Pistons look old, and a lot will be told by the turnover battle. The Pistons are the best ballhandling team in the league, while the Bulls are second-best at forcing TOs. Forcing those turnovers keeps the Pistons from slowing the game down to their league-lowest pace and will help the Bulls get easy looks in transition. If this gets into a trading possession matchup in the final minutes, the Pistons are much more comfortable in that environment and will have the advantage running their set plays.

By contrast, the Bulls just need to play their normal game, without isolation playcalling but with ball movement. That needs to start with the Bulls attacking the Pistons suspect (or at least slowed) interior defense with Gordon, Deng, and Hinrich to putting pressure on their man and forcing rotations by the defense. But to do that they first need to stay on the floor, as the story early will be how the Bulls guards handle Hamilton and Billups. Traditionally Skiles puts Gordon on Billups and have Hinrich chase around Rip (while pulling Rip's wrist from his sockets, of course), and hopefully those two don't get into foul trouble early. The Pistons have done a good job this season using Billups to force Gordon to the bench, and that's puts huge pressure on the other Bulls players to create opportunities for themselves if Ben isn't there to create openings for them.

Let's see how the core handles this new challenge, and the team will feed off their success or failure. The Bulls are playing their best ball of the season, and I don't think the extra rest hurts them any. The Piston fans usually malign the team's need for a 'wake up call' to get them going, so lets hope the Bulls give it to them in a game one victory. That way they'll find out soon enough that this Bulls team won't just be an annoyance to them that they can swat away when they feel like it. This Bulls team is going after their self-appointed title of Eastern Conference supremacy.