This was the series many predicted in the preseason. However, most assumed that this would be the Eastern Conference Final match-up. Thanks to Derrick Rose's continued injury issues, these two teams meet a round earlier.
The injury bug decided to spread the wealth, when Boston's Kelly Olynyk intentionally or unintentionally yanked Kevin Love's arm from his shoulder socket. So, as the Bulls' luck would have it, they are the team in better physical shape for this series, as their injury plagued star will actually play in this round.
The key for the Bulls is how well Rose plays. He looked mighty impressive early in the first round versus the Bucks, but tailed off as the series went on. If Rose can be anywhere near the player he was in the first two games of Round 1, the Bulls have the edge. If he can merely stay on the court and give the Bulls spurts of energy and clutch play, they have a shooter's chance.
Point guard play is also the key for the Cavs. We know LeBron James will be his extraordinary self in this series. We also know that Kyrie Irving will give the Cavs at least 20-something a game. What we are not sure of, but know may be possible, is a Kyrie explosion. Irving's ceiling has not been determined yet and if he can score 30-plus points in two or three games, that may be enough to make up for Love's absence and push the Cavs over the top.
There is one glaring mismatch in the series and that is on the sideline. Yes, the NBA is a "player's league," but if ever that theory could be debunked, it is here. Tom Thibodeau has been here before and has the respect of his players. David Blatt cannot attest to either claim.
The Cavs have the two best players in this series, so if either or both is other worldly, Cleveland likely moves on. But, my safe prediction is based on the tried and true theories that defense wins championships and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I'm taking the Bulls' depth, defense and coaching over LeBron and Kyrie. Either way, it will be fun to watch.