Pace: Chicago 95.5 (12th) vs. Cleveland 93.5 (25th)
Offensive Efficiency: Chicago 100.8 (28th) vs. Cleveland 108.8 (4th)
Defensive Efficiency: Chicago 102.6 (10th) vs. Cleveland 101.5 (7th)
Chicago’s problem is that they can’t score. The only way they have to get the ball to the basket is by having Derrick rose drive, and they don’t have any real three-point threats or a post presence. Because of this, their offense is built around 16-23 foot jumpers; no team takes more shots from that range than the Bulls do. Since those are the least efficient shots in basketball, it’s not a great mystery why Chicago sucks at offense.
Shaq comes back into the starting lineup today. We’ll see how that goes. I worry that the Bulls might have an easier time getting the mid-range shots they like with Shaq sagging into the paint all night, but the shots the Bulls like are bad shots.
Chicago’s only real chance in this series is to frustrate LeBron James and have Derrick Rose absolutely go off. Mo Williams isn’t much of a defender, and the Bulls’ rotations have given LeBron in the past. At the end of the day, though, LeBron is on a completely different level than Rose, and he’s rested and ready to show that.
Cavs can’t get caught up in trying to work Shaq in until they get a VERY healthy lead going. The first round might seem like it’s going to be a party, but the Cavs are four losses away from going home. If they remember that, they should be fine.
Some additional notes, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:
How important is this game for Chicago? The Cavaliers are 7-0 in best-of-seven series in which they won the first game. Only one other franchise has won as many best-of-seven series as the Cavs without losing one after taking a 1-0 lead: Portland (8-0).
The Cavaliers finished the season with 20 more wins than the Bulls (61 to 41). In the history of the NBA playoffs, there have been 25 best-of-seven series that have featured opposing teams that were separated by 20-or-more wins in the standings. The team with the fewer wins won only of those series (Golden State vs. Dallas in 2007).
The Cavaliers ended the regular-season with a four-game losing streak. In the history of the NBA, only one team has won the league title in a season that ended with a losing streak of at least four games: New York in 1969-70 (ended season with a four-game losing streak).
The Bulls have defeated the Cavaliers in each of the five post-season series that the teams have played. Only one other current team has played as many as five series against an opponent without losing one: Lakers vs. Denver (5-0).
LeBron James averaged 29.7 points, 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game during the 2009-2010 regular season. Only two other players in NBA history have averaged 25 points, eight assists and seven rebounds per game in the same season: Oscar Robertson (six times from 1960-61 through 1965-66) and Michael Jordan (1988-89).
James led the Cavaliers in total points, assists, steals and blocked shots this season, marking the second consecutive season he has led his team in each of those categories. No other player has led his team in points, assists, steals and blocked shots in the same season more than once.
The Bulls made the playoffs despite suffering through a 10-game losing streak during the regular season (February 27 through March 19). Since the NBA instituted the current playoff format in 1983-84, only four other teams have reached the postseason despite having a double-digit losing streak during the regular-season: Portland in 1985-86 (12 straight), Sacramento in 1995-96 (11 straight), Phoenix in 1996-97 (13 straight) and Toronto in 2001-02 (13 straight).
Mike Brown has recorded 272 regular-season wins in his first five seasons in the NBA. Only five other head coaches in NBA history have registered as many wins as Brown in their first five seasons in the league: Phil Jackson (295), Pat Riley (286), K.C. Jones (280), Billy Cunningham (279) and Larry Costello (272).
Brown has a 16-4 (.800) career record in first-round playoff games as a head coach. That is the highest career winning percentage in first-round playoff games for any head coach since the current playoff format was instituted in 1983-84 (minimum: 15 games).
Shaquille O’Neal has appeared in 203 playoff games in his career. That is more than the combined total of the players on the rosters of two 2010 playoff teams: Portland (157) and Oklahoma City (91).
Chicago was 5-10 (.333) on the road against teams that finished the season with a .600-or-better winning percentage this season. That winning percentage was much higher than the league’s winning percentage in those games (.250).
Alright, guys. Just under a half hour until the 2010 Playoffs. Get excited, get happy, get terrified. See you after the game.