The Cleveland Cavaliers finally have their opponent for the second round of the NBA playoffs, the Chicago Bulls.
Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and the Bulls finally eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks on their third attempt on Thursday night. After losing at the buzzer in game four and losing at home in game five, the Bulls took control of game six early and blew out Milwaukee on their home floor by 54 points, 120-66.
The Cavaliers have been waiting to find who they will face in the eastern conference semifinals since closing out their opening round series against Boston in four games last Sunday.
The Cavaliers and Bulls were the two favorites to represent the eastern conference in the NBA finals at the beginning of the season. The big story heading into this series will be how the Cavaliers play without Kevin Love who is out with his dislocated shoulder. The Bulls have a lot of size at the power forward and center positions in Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. The Cavs game plan was to have Love out by the three point line as a way to stretch out the Bulls defense to provide open lanes to the basket for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. James is expected to take over Love power forward spot in David Blatt’s starting lineup. Tristan Thompson should see his minutes increase in this series as well.
The Cavaliers won three of the four meetings between the teams during the regular season. The Bulls however, are as healthy as they have been all season long entering this matchup. Rose missed the final meeting of the regular season on Easter Sunday, but has shown flashes of his most valuable player season back in 2012. The Cavs will also be without J.R. Smith for the first two games of the series after his ejection in game four against the Celtics.
While the Cavaliers may not be at full strength for this matchup, they have LeBron James. With him and Kyrie Irving, the wine and gold can still advance to the eastern conference finals, especially considering the Bulls needed to play two extra games to close out their series against Milwaukee. The extra rest and practice time for Cleveland might just be what the doctor ordered to keep their championship dreams alive.
Game one tips off at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Monday night. Here is the entire series schedule
Game 1 May 4 @ Cleveland 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2 May 6 @ Cleveland 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3 May 8 @ Chicago T.B.A. (ESPN)
Game 4 May 10 @ Chicago 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5 May 12 @ Cleveland T.B.A. (TNT) (if necessary)
Game 6 May 14 @ Chicago T.B.A. (TNT) (if necessary)
Game 7 May 17 @ Cleveland T.B.A. (TNT) (if necessary)