82 games makes for a perhaps-too-long season, but it at least it provides a robust sample size of data. So I figure it'd be a good exercise to 'match-up' the four factors for both teams.
Now clearly the entire season doesn't provide all the necessary context of what to expect this particular series. The Bulls have had some roster upheaval that weakened their defense. We don't know how injuries to Noah, Deng, Taj and even James Johnson will impact them going forward (though Noah looks all-the-way back). Kirk Hinrich is playing better this month than he had most of the season, the first month can be thrown out with Derrick Rose's injury, etc.
On the other side, the Cavs have added Antawn Jamison, recently re-added Big Z, and Shaq is returning after a couple months out. And obviously these are stats are against the entire league, not in 82 games against eachother.
With all the caveats out of the way, lets start with pace:
No doubt we'll probably hear Charles Barkley say that the Bulls should play faster because they're younger, and the Cavs to play faster since they have LeBron. But the Bulls have more experience at the faster pace, and it's out of necessity, given their ineptitude in offensive sets (more on that later). The Cavs are notoriously slow, and even with LeBron it makes more sense than in past years, given the Shaq-Ilgauskas center combination. Playoff basketball in general is played at a slower pace, so the Bulls will have to be conscious of that. Hey, maybe this is where Vinny's 'coaching' ("Run! Run!") can help.
Now on to some relatively good news, the Cavs offense vs. (in a way) the Bulls defense:
|Cavs Offense||111.2 (6)||53.2 (3)||15.1 (14)||25.1 (T21)||24.6 (8)|
|Bulls Defense||105.3 (11)||48.4 (7)||14.1 (24)||25.2 (8)||21.2 (9)|
The first number is obviously the biggie. The Bulls flirted with a top-10 defense all season but finished outside of it, no doubt that number submarined by Noah's 10-game absence and anything that can be blamed on Hakim Warrick. I think the Bulls can hold their own here moreso than in the second half of the season may suggest. The Bulls will have an extra-tight rotation so that should limit the poor bench defenders, and even Brad Miller shouldn't be exploited as much as long as he can body-up a fellow plodding big and not have to switch out on LeBron or something. At least lets hope the Bulls aren't switching those kinds of screen/roll plays.
And how about the Bulls defensive rebounding this season? Last year they were 28th, but Noah's obviously improved, Taj got better over the course of the season, a healthier year from Deng, and Vinny's limited the small-ball for the most part. I'm surprised the Cavs did so poorly on the offensive glass this season considering their size. and Varejao being one of the league's best. So if they turn it up in the playoffs that's a cause for concern.
Now, the bad news...and that means we have to look at Bulls offensive (pun) statistics.
|Bulls Offense||103.5 (27)||47.7 (28)||15.2 (15)||26.6 (16)||21.7 (21)|
|Cavs Defense||104.1(7)||48.2 (3)||13.9 (T26)||22.8 (2)||21.8 (13)|
This is the thing about facing the best team in the league. They can be good at both offense and defense, a concept us fans in mediocrity-land don't believe is possible.
And the Bulls offense is awful, and not even a single factor is even above-average, not even our once-great offensive rebounding. This is where we hope Joakim Noah is peaking and about to have the series of his life, but the Cavs' size may make even that version of Noah's time difficult getting extra possessions.
What Bulls fans can hope for is the type of play that transcends what we've seen over the course of a long season, and that is Derrick Rose brilliance. It's sporadic enough to where we know it exists, but it can't be depended on. But on the games he does have his shot falling and is taking over every possession, both teams work against the rest of the league won't matter, it'll just be how they can stop Rose.
So maybe there's one game they can't. Otherwise I don't see how the Bulls score enough to where the Bulls D can keep games close. Cavs in 5.