Round Two Preview
Point Guard: Chauncey vs. BenGo
At least according to my recollection, Skiles usually puts Ben on Chauncey on the defensive end. On the one hand, I feel like Rip is a lot less physically overpowering for Ben than Chauncey, but since Hinrich is better at chasing guys through screens, there's certainly some logic to putting him on Rip. Either way, this is a tough matchup for the Bulls defensively, but I think Ben can even it out on the offensive end while going against Rip. He averaged about 18 against them this year, 3 under his season average, but his shooting percentage was nearly 50 percent, and he was exactly 50 percent from ThreeLand. In fact, now that I think about it, if you take away the last game against them---where he got into early foul trouble and ended up with only 2 points in 11 minutes---he averaged 33 points against them. So yeah, he can score against Rip (or Chauncey), but he needs to stay out of foul trouble, which might be easier said than done.
Two Guard: Rip v. Hinrich
The Captain, you'll recall, went absolutely apeshit the last time these two teams met, which was probably his high point of the year. Offensively, Kirk was just mediocre against the Heat, but considering the clamp job he did on Wade, that can be overlooked. On that side of the ball as well, Hinrich gave Rip fits this year, holding him under his average, while forcing him to shoot just a hair over 33 percent. Rip did get to the line more than 7 times a game, though, so again, fouls could be an issue. One would hope that after making Second Team All Defense this year, Kirk might start getting the benefit of the doubt on some of the calls on the defensive end, but if the Miami series is anything to go by, I wouldn't hold your breath. On the other end, I feel like Kirk is going to have to be more of a force than he was against Miami for the Bulls to have a shot. Why?
Small Forward: Tayshaun v. Deng
If it weren't for Baron Davis (and True Hoop's right; you'd have to watch these games to believe just how nasty Davis has been), Luol Deng would be getting even more love from the media than he already is. (The same media, one might add, that thought Pax was nuts for not trading him for Pau "Never Won A Playoff Game" Gasol.) That said, Tayshaun is one of the few 3s who, physically, matches up pretty well against Deng. (The only other one who comes to mind is Josh Howard.) That didn't stop Deng from averaging 22 against the Pistons this year, and one of the greatest things about Deng's play against Miami is that there was an edge and cockiness to his demeanor that I'd never seen him exhibit before. It was slight, but perceptible, which was heartening to see because I sometimes felt that Deng's humility---a real admirable trait---nevertheless kept him from being the total bad ass he's capable of. Still, Tayshaun can be a great defender and I expect him to be salivating at the chance to shut (or at least slow) down the media's newest darling. It'll be hard for Deng to dominate him as thoroughly as he did everyone the Heat threw at him. (Although after the last series, I'm not discounting the possibility.)
Power Forward: Sheed v. PJ
Peej had an absolutely great series against the Heat, leading, at one point, to my old friend from S. Florida texting me: "Et tu, PJ?" On the offensive end, I'd say that, in addition to hitting the open baseline jumpers resulting from the drive and kick, he also has a chance to use his size to get some good looks in the post against Sheed. Defensively, though, I'm nervous about him covering Sheed out on the perimeter and, in particular, whether he'll be fast enough to get back to him after hedging on the pick and roll near the 3 point land. Whenever I caught snippets of the Pistons' romp over Orlando, it seemed like he and Chauncey were running that fricking two-man game to damn near perfection. It is this play, more than anything else about the Pistons, that scares me, and it's why I hope we'll see more of Ty, who has the speed (and the hops) to foil it somewhat.
Center: Webb v. Wallace
Well, if the last series didn't answer the $60 million question, it at least answered $15 mil. of it. With all the hype and shit surrounding Big Ben, I really see it going one of two ways for him (at least in Detroit): He either gets too amped up so that he's sloppier than he usually is on the offensive end and just a medium-factor on the defensive end, or he manages to harness that energy into a finely honed defensive, rebounding, stealing, tipping, shotblocking and foul-drawing tour de force, in which he puts up ludicrous numbers like he did against Cleveland. (By the way, make sure you click on that link. It's awesome.) Either way, I'm thinking it'll be fun to watch.
Bench: Ty, Du, Thabo and Noce v. Delfino, Hunter, McDyess and Maxiell
I've already made my points about Ty and matchups, so let's move on to Du, who, I've gotta say, played very solidly against Miami. I can see why, in the Playoffs, Skiles tends toward he and Noce over Thabo and Ty: If not as spectacular, their play is a lot more steady and constant. It's really a hard call. The rooks add a level of athleticism that, potentially, makes the Bulls the most talented team in the East. But dumb mistakes and turnovers---which, let's face it, Ty and Thabo can make a lot of---can kill you in the playoffs, and thus far, it's hard to argue with the results (or Noce's Game Four, fourth quarter baseline jumper in Walker's eye). I can see why going with the vets makes sense, particularly on the road, and, in the case of the Miami series, particularly when the talent level of your vets overmatches that of your opponents. Will that be the case against Detroit? To some extent, you have to see how the series plays out, but I'm thinking some of the matchups will demand more playing time for the rooks, particularly Ty. Whether Skiles will accede to that demand, or stubbornly bang his head against the wall, remains to be seen.
My head says, heartbreakingly, Pistons in seven. But my heart, which doesn't want to break, says Bulls in six.
Fuck heartbreak. Bulls in six.