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A Battle For East Supremacy

Last night, the top two seeds in the East faced off, the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics.  As the Celtics find themselves jockeying for the second seed with Miami, Chicago has established themselves firmly as the number one seed and, in my opinion, the favorites for the NBA championship.  Not bad for a team that finished 41-41 the past two years in a row.

Though the Bulls own this game handily, 97-81, I anticipate these two teams squaring off in the Eastern Conference Finals and likely a seven game series.  And even though I have no vested interest in either of these teams and couldn't really care what happens, I would clear my schedule to tune in to every game.
This series has everything that a NBA fan could ask for.  Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo, two of the best point guards in the league, once again lock horns, and not in the buddy-buddy style fans are accustomed to seeing from players.  These guys hate each other.  Imagine business partners working together, two of the best and brightest in their class, only to have one extremely outperform the other, leading the  outcast to leave the business in a huff and swear revenge on his former partner.  That's basically what happened this summer at Team USA's camp before the World Championships.  Rose handled Rondo so badly that Rondo voluntarily withdrew from the camp rather than get cut or ride the pine during the tournament.  Look no further than last night with each guard ferociously attacking the other on offense.  Nothing like a little bad blood to spice up a series.

Second, Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah epitomize the title of "guys that Imagesyou absolutely hate but if they were on your team you would worship them."  KG, less so than earlier in his career, and Noah play every game like it is game seven of the NBA Finals.  They love to mess with opponents head: KG blocking shots after the whistle and Noah's screams that somewhat resemble a banshee.  To each of these guys, making the correct defensive plays is their primary duty.  The results show it: Boston ranks number two  and Chicago number one in defensive efficiency, a full point and a half ahead of number three Orlando.

Third, there is the perennially clutch Paul Pierce and the perpetually underachieving Luol "Remember When I'm The Reason We Didn't Trade For Kobe" Deng.  Arguably the least interesting matchups of the series, but I am just always fascinated watching Deng and thinking that this guy was the reason that the entire landscape of the NBA wasn't reshaped with a Kobe trade back in '06.  Unbelievable.

Lastly, Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers attempt to out strategize the other from the sidelines.  Thibodeau had always been touted as the brains of the Celtics operations when they won the title in '08.  Credited for his defensive schemes, Thibodeau is quickly proving that he belongs in the upper-tier of coaches currently in the NBA for his work with Chicago.  Rivers, on the other side, is renowned for his motivational abilities and less so his actual in-game tactics.  With four future hall of famers on your roster, it makes coaching a little easier.  But will Doc be able to keep up with his former protege?

Great matchups, cities that truly care about basketball, teams with long legacies of success in the playoffs.  What more could a fan ask for?  When the war is over and the damaged assessed, I'm picking Chicago in seven.  I don't see how it could NOT go to seven games.  But from what I have seen from Rose since July of last year, it would behoove me to pick him and his team.


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