By Ian S Palmer
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The Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls will square off against each other in the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinal in a best-of-seven series. Cleveland advanced to the second round after taking care of the Boston Celtics in four straight during their opening series while the Bulls took out the Milwaukee Bucks in six games after winning the first three. Cleveland beat the Bulls three times in their four regular-season meetings in 2014/15 and will have a lot of confidence going into this series against them.
Chicago Bulls vs Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Playoff Betting Preview: bet365 currently lists the Bulls at 30/20 to win the series with the Cavaliers at 20/47
Cleveland won 114-108 in overtime back on Halloween night and then beat the Bulls by 14 points in January. The Bulls won their lone game of the series on Feb. 12 when they came out on the right side of a 113-98 decision. They met again for the last time on April 5 with the Cavaliers downing the Bulls 99-94. Most fans were hoping for this matchup since the series will feature some of the games’ biggest stars such as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, and Pau Gasol. The Cavs were fourth in offensive efficiency this year and 20th defensively in the league while the Bulls were 10th and 11th respectively.
The Bulls finished the 2014/15 campaign as the third seed in the East with a record of 50-32 while the Cavs finished with a mark of 53-29 for the second seed and the home court advantage in this series. The Bulls had to deal with numerous injuries during the season and that resulted in some inconsistent basketball. Everybody appears to be healthy heading into this showdown against Cleveland and may be meeting the Cava at the perfect time. The Cavaliers acquired several players during the year such as Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith and now appear to be a more balanced side.
The biggest news heading into the series is the recent season-ending injury of Cleveland’s Kevin Love with a dislocated shoulder. The key player in the clash could very well be Chicago’s Rose, who was on fire at times in the series against the Bucks. However, after leading the Bulls to wins in the first three games the Bucks won the next two and Rose had problems with turnovers and his shooting dropped off. But it seemed the Bulls weren’t good enough when Rose was off his game.
Chicago’s Spanish rookie Nikola Mirotic could also be a key player if he can remain healthy. The 24-year-old played better as the season went on and was depended upon numerous times this season when the Bulls were dealing with injuries. He scored an average of 20.8 points along with 7.6 rebounds a game in March and he could play more in this series since Love is sidelined for the Cavs. Of course, Cleveland’s key player will be James and he could be the difference in advancing to the next round or not. However, he’s going to need some help since he can’t do it all by himself. Either way, this series should go at least six exciting games.