On the eve of the first game of the series with the Bulls, I offer my prediction, for what it is worth, and invite yours as well. It will be interesting to see the various opinions.
I am inclined to give the Bulls more than a small chance to steal at least one game. While it is true that they extended the Celtics to seven games last year, in a thrilling first round series, with Ben Gordon and John Salmons, both of whom have departed, Gordon for Detroit and Salmons for Milwaukee, the "experts" seem to see the Cavs winning easily...even though Chicago finished with an identical 41-41 record to the one they had last year, and even though they battled injuries this year, and survived a ten-game losing streak to rise from the "dead" and to make the post-season. Two of the three Yahoo experts I saw predict a sweep for Cleveland, while one sees the Cavaliers winning in five. And the pick that I saw on NBA.com was also for Cleveland running the table in the first round.
I see Chicago in the position of the ultimate underdog, of whom nothing is expected and, therefore, without the pressure of a favorite. The fact that they have played several "playoff games" down the stretch to make the playoffs gives them the advantage of being battle-tested, and combined with the adrenaline of sneaking in and being denigrated by most media, should have them snarling in defiance, just as Joakim Noah threw down a gauntlet as his team left the court Wednesday in Charlotte, although, truth be told, he was not predicting anything, but challenging his team to "shock the world".
With the Cavaliers trying to work Shaq back in on the fly, and with the rest of the team trying to adjust to LeBron leading the way again after an 11 day absence, I predict...
The Bulls will win one of the two games in Cleveland, and then the teams will split games three and four in Chicago. Then the Cavs will put the hammer down in games five and six and move on to the second round. If I am way off with this prediction, feel free to call me dumber than a box of rocks when the first round is over. I will be prepared to take the heat (and perhaps to play the Heat, as well).
So...Cleveland in six is my guesstimate...and yours is...?