The Chicago Bulls sealed a comfortable win in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, and they will be looking for a repeat performance in Game 2.
Where: United Center, Chicago.
When: Tuesday April 21, 01:00 (UK time)
The 103-91 victory was a big boost for the Bulls as they start their campaign which ultimately they expect ends in a championship, and they should have enough to take a commanding 2-0 lead against their Eastern Conference rivals.
Derrick Rose returned to the playoffs for the first time in three years after multiple knee injuries have derailed his career, but he looked in fine form on Saturday with 23 points and seven assists which included some aggressive cuts to the basket as well as a dunk to show that he is getting back to his best.
While the Bulls will need that to continue and for him to stay healthy, they will be content with their overall depth with Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks all playing key roles for the team.
Noah insisted that they just have to “stay humble and hungry” and hopefully that will take them where they want to go this year with a possible clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers awaiting in the next round.
The Bulls are importantly improving on both ends of the court with their defensive intensity making a difference in the opening game, while they have the offensive firepower to keep pace with the best in the league.
It is now purely a matter of keeping their momentum going, keeping players healthy and executing the way they know how against a young Bucks team that could start to wilt under the pressure.
Jason Kidd has worked wonders with this team this year to transform them into a playoff outfit after finishing last season with the worst record in the NBA, and they have multiple young talents that will make the difference in the long-term.
However, it may well have come too soon for them this year as although the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton are all threats on their night, they haven’t had any playoff experience and that will cost them in close situations with the pressure on their shoulders to get points.
Expect the Bucks to make this a close encounter this time round ahead of returning home for Game 3, but it will be Chicago who come out on top as Rose will be desperately searching for consistency by putting on another show for his home fans on Monday.
Taj Gibson is expected to play despite suffering a strained left shoulder in the first meeting, while the Bulls will be hopeful that Kirk Hinrich can recover from a left knee injury to complete the roster and get some valuable minutes in ahead of tougher tests where he will undoubtedly be needed.
Prediction: Bulls to win.