For the first time since 2012, Derrick Rose is going to appear in a postseason game. This gives the Chicago Bulls a lot of confidence going into their series with the Milwaukee Bucks, but more than that, it makes them believe in succeeding in a much bigger way.
The most confidence building stat for the Chicago Bulls going into the playoffs? They’re 17-5 when they go with their regular lineup of Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Gasol and Noah. Rose might not be 100%, but he got some trial runs with his minutes growing from game to game, while other players who have motioned between the injured list and the active roster seem to be ready at the most important time.
Pau Gasol has been extremely difficult to stop for the Bucks this season. The double double machine has average 24.3 points per game as the Bulls beat the Bucks on three out of four games. He also scored 46 points in a January 10 win. With all the length and athleticism the Bucks have in their lineup, making them one of the best defensive teams in the nation, stopping big men in the paint is still a difficulty.
The Bucks are young and sometimes exciting, but beyond their length at several positions, do they really have something to sell? Heading into this series, despite finishing above .500, it feels like more of a testing of the waters for a very young team that few expected to do this well this season. Points, especially after trading away Brandon Knight, have been hard to come by, and if their defense won’t be able to create easy points off turnovers, it’s highly unlikely that half court offense will.
The Bulls are healthy entering the playoffs for the first time in ages. There isn’t the feeling from before the 2013-2014 season, of champions finally getting together. This isn’t the team of 2011 that had the best record in the NBA. This is a veteran team, but without arrogance, complacency or the inexperience that stood in their way in the past.
The Bucks aren’t facing a hulking, unbeatable teams, and yet it seems that they’re not in a sizzling form heading into the postseason, and taking into account their other disadvantages starting off this series, most of them on the offensive side of the ball, seeing them snatch away home court advantage in game 1 is very unlikely.