Faceoff: Who should the Bulls play in the first round?

By Matt Hopkinson and Brian Thomas

Matt: Well, Brian, the NBA playoffs are right around the corner. Putting all the drama from the season aside, what’s your stance on the Chicago Bulls’ first round matchup? Assuming the Bulls can hold off the Miami Heat for overall No. 1 seed in the East, their fate lies with either the New York Knicks or the Philadelphia 76ers. I personally think that New York is an easier matchup, as Philly has a great coach, a stacked bench and a premiere point-forward matchup problem in Andre Iguodala.

Brian: I disagree with you, as I believe Philadelphia is a better matchup for the Bulls. I think the Knicks have a lot more talent than the 76ers do. Carmelo Anthony has been taking over games lately, scoring 30 points in four out of his last five games. He is one of the top players in the league as of late, and has already proven against the Bulls how clutch he is, when the Knicks beat the Bulls in overtime this season.

Matt: I don’t disagree that New York probably has more talent than Philadelphia, but they have still yet to show how they can come together as a cohesive unit. New York is depending on too many “if” factors, while Philadelphia is similar to the Bulls, doing things the right way, the harder way and always going one step up to outwork their opponent. Philly’s bench scored 51 points as recently as April 7.

Brian: I agree that the 76ers have a very strong bench compared to the Knicks. But I don’t think that the bench will decide the series. The Heat, like the Knicks, have an awful bench, but still have the most talented starting lineup and are one of the best teams in the NBA. Philadelphia is also not a very high scoring team, which plays right into the Bulls’s hands, as they are the top defensive team in the league, only allowing 88 points per game.

Matt: New York is an improved defensive team, especially under Mike Woodson. But on the season, the Bulls have averaged nearly 10 points less against the 76ers than against New York. The Bulls are still 3-1 on the season against New York, and there isn’t anyone on the Knicks who presents a matchup problem like the 76ers starting lineup can. You could argue Amare Stoudemire, but Carlos Boozer can’t guard a crosswalk, let alone a professional power forward. I think either way, however, it’s NBA finals or bust for the Bulls.