The Cavs have earned some much needed rest after their first round sweep of the Celtics. Although it came with the heavy cost of losing Kevin Love for the foreseeable future, and JR Smith for the first two games, the Cavs are still optimistic about their chances to advance. Standing in their way will be either the Chicago Bulls or the Milwaukee Bucks, each of whom provide different strengths and weaknesses for the Cavs to defend and exploit. The Cavs are undoubtedly preparing for both potential matchups, with the most likely scenario pitting them against rival Chicago. We look at why the Cavs should and should not want to face the Bucks or the Bulls in the second round starting Monday:
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Why We Want to Play Chicago
The Bulls have not played consistent basketball for almost a month, and while Derrick Rose has shown glimpses of his old MVP-form, he has not put together back-to-back impressive outings yet in the playoffs. The playoffs present a condensed schedule that Rose has yet to show he can adapt to following his latest knee surgery. The Cavs have quality perimeter defenders to match up with Jimmy Butler, especially when JR Smith returns from his suspension. The Bulls are not the defensive team that they were a few years ago, so the Cavs should be in full attack mode on the offensive end.
Why We Don’t Want to Play Chicago
The Bulls frontline is enormous and highly skilled, making the injury to Kevin Love that much more detrimental to the team. Love’s skill set and ability to shoot the ball was a great weapon against the Bulls to pull one of their big guys away from the basket. Without Love, the Cavs frontline is very thin, with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov the only players who are used to playing major minutes. We will likely see LeBron playing some minutes at the power forward spot, which hopefully doesn’t subject him to foul trouble trying to keep Joakim Noah off the offensive glass.
Why We Want to Play Milwaukee
The upstart Milwaukee Bucks are making the series against Chicago very interesting, and they are doing so heavily with a mix of bench players and starters. The Cavs would prefer a matchup with them over one with Chicago because they are not a team that can exploit the loss of Kevin Love as easily as the Bulls can. The Bucks start a small front line, although the team’s overall length on defense can cause problems. They struggle on offense because they do not have multi-specialty players. Their best creator can’t shoot, and their best shooter can’t create with the exception of Khris Middleton. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an up-and-coming talent, but he is not yet a dangerous offensive threat. The Cavs would have matchup advantages in several places on the court, and the absence of Love would be diminished by the Bucks’ lack of offensive fire power.
Why We Don’t Want to Play Milwaukee
The Bucks are one of the youngest teams in the playoffs this year, and if they beat the Bulls, they will be the first NBA team ever to come back to win a 7-game series after being down 3-0. They will undoubtedly be very confident in that accomplishment, and more importantly, will have nothing to lose in a matchup with the Cavs. The pressure will be on Cleveland to dispense of this team quickly, and if the Bucks gain any momentum, there is the threat of our playoffs first-timers getting a little bit tight. The Cavs would be favored, but the Bucks would be very unpredictable.