The 2012 NBA Playoffs will open at the United Center in Chicago at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 28. The top-seeded Chicago Bulls will face the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For the second consecutive season, the Bulls have earned the top overall seed and will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Chicago had a 50-win season despite starters Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton missing a combined 77 games. To have a long postseason run, the Bulls will need Rose, Deng and Hamilton to play well and be in the lineup on a consistent basis.
Philadelphia's second-year guard Evan Turner, a Chicago native, told ESPN.com's Scott Powers that he believes the 76ers "match up better against the Bulls" than they do the Heat. He also told the Delaware County Times that Philadelphia will "be able to compete well against Chicago and have an opportunity to win the series."
Well, Turner and the 76ers will indeed face Chicago in the first round. Whether Turner was asking for this matchup or not, Philadelphia will have to go through the running of the Bulls to make it to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2003, when Turner was just 14 years old.
Philadelphia is a deep, egalitarian-like team that remained relatively healthy throughout the compacted 66-game regular season. They have eight players that average at least 25 minutes a game and seven of them played in 60 or more games this season. The 76ers' depth and the relative consistency of their lineups and rotations may help them in their playoff run, however long it may be.
Chicago Bulls versus Philadelphia 76ers Eastern Conference First-Round Schedule
Game 1: Saturday, April 28, Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls, 1:00 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 2: Tuesday, May 1, Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls, 8:00 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 3: Friday, May 4, Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers, 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, May 6, Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers, 1:00 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 5: Tuesday, May 8, Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls, TBD (if necessary)
Game 6: Thursday, May 10, Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers, TBD (if necessary)
Game 7: Saturday, May 12, Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls, TBD on TNT (if necessary)
Both the Bulls and 76ers are solid defensively. They both rank within the top three in defensive efficiency, points allowed, and opponent field-goal percentage. The teams met three times during the regular season and Chicago won the season series 2-1. This first-round playoff series will be a defensive battle and the team that scores the ball with some consistency will move on to the second round.
Chicago leads the NBA in rebounding (46.7 per game) and rebounding differential (+6.7). The Bulls also grab a league-high 13.9 rebounds per game. With the extra scoring opportunities they are likely to get, the Bulls will probably produce points more regularly than the 76ers. The points scored off those extra chances will prove to be the difference in this series.
Prediction: Bulls 4-1
Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has more than 100 articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings and game-by-game predictions on RandomNBAFan.com.
Information from NBA.com's 2012 Playoffs Schedule; ESPN.com's Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner said he meant no disrespect to Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers' Evan Turner says he wants to face Chicago Bulls in first round of NBA playoffs and 2011-12 Regular Season NBA Team Stats was used for this article.