Chicago Bulls (1) Vs. Indiana Pacers (8)
The Script: The Bulls, powered by MVP favorite Derrick Rose and defensive wiz Tom Thibodeau, are having one of those seasons. Expected to be much improved, they instead finished atop the East. No one ever watches Indiana, which is a shame, since they play fast without sacrificing much in the way of intensity. Expect an admirable, and entertaining, ass-kicking.
The Principles: My old pal Rose is sure to put on show; at this point, his imprint on big games is nearly automatic. He’s advanced weaponry in action, hoop-seeking mayhem that’s always one step ahead of defenders who know full well he’s coming straight at them. As for the Pacers, Danny Granger (the franchise scorer) and Darren Collison (the prized off-season acquisition) may remind us why we gave a damn about them last season.
Real Headz Know the Deal: Rose may steal the headlines—and grab our eyeballs on every single possession—but Joakim Noah might deserve his own newly-minted award. Maybe for “Heart and Soul of the Team?” The Pacers are getting better, not treading water; watch Tyler Hansbrough, the former Tar Heel star, and stereotypical honky Indy draft pick, who is on the verge of legitimacy.
The Finer Things: Pretty much everyone on the Bulls is underrated next to Rose. But if Noah is the team’s spine, then Luol Deng is its connective tissue. Watch for Pacers rookie Paul George, the kind of player who at any moment could do something you’ll see on YouTube five seconds later. But at least you can say you were there.
A Word About Your Coaches: Thibodeau’s schemes are nearly as formidable as Rose’s scoring—and may do more to explain the team’s success. Indiana’s Frank Vogel, technically an interim, is the league’s youngest head coach. He took over for Jim O’Brien, a disaster that everyone saw coming.
Overused Line That Will Haunt Your Dreams: A Twitter-ized, NSFW version of “Oh my, I can’t believe what Derrick Rose just did”.