Central Division Showdown

By DeArbea Walker

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls are jelling at just the right time. Or that’s what it’s perceived to look like. With the playoffs set to begin in three weeks, these two teams might be potential opponents in the Eastern Conference Semifinal round. Their chemistry on the court and off the court has been the key to both teams success this season. From the injury bug, to miscommunication on and off the floor, both teams look to have hit their stride before entering the post season. It was a bumpy ride, but as the season comes to a close these teams sit 1 st and 2nd in the Central Division vying for the Eastern Conference title and a NBA Championship.

Without the senior leadership on both rosters, both teams wouldn’t be what is considered “loaded.” It’s understood the lingering knee injury of Chicago Bulls guard, Derrick Rose, held the team back from regular season success, but a new star emerged in the process. Chicago Bulls guard, Jimmy Butler, took the team by storm. This team has become his team. During his absence the Bulls went 5-6 while the Cavaliers during that time went 9-2, effectively shutting down the Bulls hopes of clinching the Central Division title (ESPN). The concept of “Big Three” is not the staple of the Bulls roster. Rather, it is teamwork. Different than the Cavaliers, the Bulls rely heavily on their bench and their next-man-up philosophy. This doesn’t discount from the players on the Cavaliers bench, but the Bulls have been struck with the injury bug throughout most of the regular season. This has lead to the Bulls bench taking up a larger role.

The combined pieces of Paul Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and the Bulls bench will be difficult for the Cavaliers to compete against come playoff time. A defensive threat in Jimmy Butler combined with the offensive capabilities of Derrick Rose could wreak havoc in the backcourt and on the perimeter for the Cavaliers. J.R. Smith and Kyrie Irving defensively will have to step. In addition, the Bulls presence of Paul Gasol and Joakim Noah in the frontcourt will be difficult task for Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov stopping them on the offensive glass. If these pieces are present come playoff time, this team could be a serious threat to the Cavaliers championship aspirations.

While the team dynamics for the Chicago Bulls has been hindered by injury, the Cavaliers haven’t had any excuse why they weren’t able to get on the same page to start the regular season. As the end of the regular season approaches, the relationship between Kevin Love and LeBron James seems to have turned a corner. Whenever the “Big Three” score over 20 points each game they have over a 95 percent chance of winning, making them the team to beat (ESPN). The problem is the “Big Three” doesn’t play like the “Big Three” every night. Unique to the Bulls situation, this teams star power has been present every game this season. While the Bulls stars were out, the team relied on the leadership of Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks. On the flip side, the Cavaliers never relied on their veteran bench players to lead the team to the promise land. While the apparent disconnect among the three players was present at the beginning of the season, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James seem to be on the same page on and off the floor. As for Kevin Love, the mentality of winning seems to be a common ground for he and LeBron James but that’s about it. The positive in this situation is their chemistry on-court, whether it is an act or not is working for the team. The cohesive mindset of “ fit in” has finally jelled with Love on the court, which has shown in his performance over the past few games.

The clear point is, both of these teams are loaded. There is not debate about that. Their struggles throughout the season were very apparent from injuries to the division among players on the vision of the team. The way each team has reached success this season has been different but has key similarities. Early season mishaps seem to have gone mute as the post-season approaches. If these teams were to meet in the playoffs, I’m not sure who would win. At this point we could just flip and coin and see what happens.

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