The Chicago Bulls took Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they will expect a response from LeBron James.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland.
When: Thursday May 7, 00:00 (UK time)
Derrick Rose played a huge role in the win last time out with 25 points as well as finding Pau Gasol with great regularity on the high pick-and-roll, but the Bulls will be fully expecting a reaction from their rivals.
The former MVP has shrugged off a shoulder injury that he suffered late in the game, and while he is expected to play in Game 2 without any issues, it will result in another fascinating battle with Cavs star Kyrie Irving who had 30 points in the first encounter.
While the two point guards went head-to-head, Jimmy Butler did an impressive job in limiting James as he missed eight of his 11 shots in the second half. Although he nearly finished with a triple-double (19 pounds, 15 rebounds, nine assists), the two-time NBA champion conceded that he needs to be better.
As a result, the 30-year-old will be expected to play with significantly more aggression and attack the basket, and although Chicago know that they must prepare for it, stopping him is an altogether different proposition.
James hasn’t been 0-2 down in a playoff series since Cleveland lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 Eastern Conference semi-finals, and so he will be desperate to avoid any repeats of that this year.
However, the Cavs remain short-handed as Kevin Love will of course be missing for the entire series after undergoing shoulder surgery, while JR Smith will serve the last of his two-game suspension for hitting Jae Crowder in the first round.
His return could potentially change the entire dynamic of the match-up, but Cleveland will not want to be in a two-game hole by the time he is able to return to the court.
Butler vs James will again be the key contest, with the Bulls star averaging a team-high 24.1 points in the post-season as well as guarding the four-time MVP brilliantly.
Nevertheless, this has a James comeback game written all over it, and so it would come as no surprise if the Cavs hit back with authority. Prediction: Cavs win.