LeBron James, Joakim Noah
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Bulls, Cavaliers on postseason collision course

The Chicago Bulls fell behind by 18 points in the third quarter against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, and it looked like the Bulls were going to fall to the No. 4 seed in the postseason and a first-round rematch with the Washington Wizards. Instead, Chicago stormed back and saw the Hawks rest their starters in the fourth quarter, which helped allow the Bulls to snare a 91-85 victory, the No. 3 seed and a date with the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

All due respect to the Bucks, but that’s a series the Bulls should win with relative ease. As inconsistent as Chicago has been this year, there’s still a lot of talent in place, and they’re simply a better team than Milwaukee. The Bucks will likely grab a game, maybe two, but barring a disaster, the Bulls should advance to the second round.

And that second round means a likely matchup with the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers get the Boston Celtics in first round, and while the Celtics have played some darn good ball since the All-Star break, that roster is just no match for the firepower in Cleveland. Yes, Brad Stevens may be a wizard, but that magic is going to run out.

So the Cavaliers and Bulls are on a postseason collision course. When the season started, most people thought these two teams were the best in the East, but the Hawks stormed that party while Chicago dealt with numerous injuries yet again. But even despite Atlanta winning 60 games, there’s still plenty of people who think the Cavaliers and Bulls are the two top teams in the East.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Bulls have a lot of history with LeBron James. James’s Cavaliers knocked Chicago out of the playoffs in 2010, and then James’s Miami Heat beat the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011. Two years later, the Heat beat the Bulls again in the postseason, but this time in the second round and without Derrick Rose.

Rose is back for this postseason, although he’s still nowhere near his MVP form of 2010-11. He just returned from a third knee surgery, and just like he was when he was healthy earlier in the year, he has been wildly inconsistent. The point guard looked horrible in 10 minutes against the Hawks before sitting out the second half with left knee soreness, but he looked great over the weekend against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The hope is that Rose can use the first round as a way to tune up for the Cavaliers, because the Bulls will need him. Chicago also needs Joakim Noah to get healthy, as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year has been a shell of himself all year because of injuries, and he just sat out the last two games with hamstring tendinitis.

Even if the Bulls are healthy heading into a series against Cleveland, the Cavaliers would likely be the favorite, unless there’s a big injury. Cleveland currently has 1/2 odds to come out of the East and 11/5 odds to win the NBA title, according to Bovada. Chicago isn’t too far behind, though, with 11/2 odds to win the East and 12/1 odds to win it all.

If and when these two teams get together, I’d pick the Cavaliers to win the series, but the Bulls can give them a run for their money if they get healthy and find a rhythm. Heck, Chicago COULD win the series, because Cleveland isn’t infallible. But at any rate, it should be an entertaining series, given that it does actually happen.


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