The Chicago Bulls took Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, but they must now build on the win and put their foot down in the series.
Rose stars in Game 1 win for Bulls: (Video) Former MVP back in top form.
Bulls better equipped to beat LeBron: Rose confident of chances this year.
Butler calls out Bulls for lack of defensive intensity: Admits it starts with him.
The Bulls have seen their championship hopes dashed by LeBron James too many times, and having gone 12-4 in the post-season against the two-time NBA champion, they are desperate to put things right this year.
Many argue that they have the deepest and most talented roster that they have had in years, and coupled with Kevin Love’s injury and JR Smith’s suspension, they have the perfect opportunity to take command of this series.
Derrick Rose is seemingly getting close to his MVP level of form prior to the three knee surgeries, and his battle with Kyrie Irving is certainly one of many highlights in this series.
Elsewhere, Jimmy Butler’s battle with James will become increasingly important as the series goes on, but after the first game, the Bulls back-court pair came away the victors as the encounter proved that this should be a thrilling match-up from start to finish.
Chicago have now won the opening game against James in three playoff series that they have faced him in, but the problem is that they then went 0-8 in the first two series, and must now prove that they have learned from their mistakes.
Rose has insisted that it is in the past and the current group are focused on the present, and with his 25 points, five assists and five rebounds on Monday night, he played his part in making sure that the Bulls are ready to create some more positive history.
The key this time round is that Butler is developing into a star player alongside him, as his play on both ends of the court is critical for Chicago. Not only did he put up 20 points, six assists and five rebounds, he also defended against James in 73 of 75 possessions and forced him to shoot 7-of-18 when he was the primary defender. The Bulls guard also forced him into five turnovers.
Those numbers prove that when healthy and in top form, Butler can at least limit James, but it will come as no surprise if the ‘King’ hits back with a monster performance in Game 2 to take back the momentum.
Elsewhere, Pau Gasol’s addition this summer is another huge factor in the Bulls’ success, and he proved on Monday that he can hurt the Cavs if his shooting is on point, as his presence also spaces the floor and gives coach Tom Thibodeau another offensive option in a potent line-up given Mike Dunleavy’s shooting from beyond the arc.
Chicago will expect a reaction from the Cavs on Thursday night, and they will likely hit them with everything they have before the series switches to the United Center for Game 3. Smith will return for that encounter and that threatens to change the entire dynamic of the match-up, so the Bulls need to strike again now and put all the pressure on Cleveland to get back into the series.