We notched another NBA winner yesterday as the Wizards remained perfect in the playoffs and won a stunning fourth straight road series opener yesterday, taking an impressive early series lead over Atlanta. I don’t think this series will be a walk-over like their last one, but it isn’t tough to see the Wizards advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals again the winner of either Cleveland or Chicago’s series. Speaking of which…
The Eastern Conference Finals that everyone expected to see begins tonight, only a round earlier than anticipated. The Chicago Bulls are finally healthy and head into Cleveland who will be without Kevin Love for the season and J.R. Smith for the first two games. So can they steal one on the road to take control of the series or can LeBron and Kyrie carry the load by themselves?
Let’s dive into an interesting series and see if we can start off with a winner.
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Today’s Free Games:
Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers -4.5 (Total: 194)
LeBron is no stranger to the Chicago Bulls. He’s sent them fishing three times in the playoffs since 2010, most notably, erasing Derrick Rose from the series after his MVP campaign. It wouldn’t be stunning to see him do the exact same thing this year.
However, this year’s Bulls are differently constructed. Derrick Rose is healthy, but he is far from the MVP of the league, in fact he is not the MVP of the team. Pau Gasol is in the fold and playing as well as he has in career. Jimmy Butler has emerged as a legitimate two-way player and All Star, and of course, Joakim Noah and all his affection for Cleveland will have the crowd energized. So even if LeBron erases Rose, there might still be enough Bulls offense to get plenty of points.
The big question is how the absence of Kevin Love affects the Cavs. There have been plenty of games where Love hasn’t been a big factor, even sitting on the bench for key stretches of action. But there is no doubt over the course of a long series, his offense, rebounding, passing and ability to space the floor will be sorely missed. However, I’m not betting against LeBron when Chicago is in his sights. Yes, this Chicago team is different, especially with Gasol, but Cleveland is an underrated defensive team with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mosgov patrolling the paint.
The Cavaliers were 3-1 against Chicago this season, but it is hard to put much stock in those results since these two never seem to meet up at full strength – and they still won’t. But I’ll take my chances with LeBron in a situation where are lot of people are doubting him. This feels like one of those “oh, I’m not the MVP anymore, huh?” kind of show-the-world games. Look for him and Kyrie to be huge at home and grab the Game One win.