LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving made the Cavaliers the scariest team in the Eastern Conference.
Early struggles downgraded Cleveland’s status as favorites, but the additions of Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert have balanced the roster. The Cavaliers are thriving, and I sure wouldn’t want to face them.
Joakim Noah feels otherwise.
“We’re confident. We’re a confident group,” Joakim Noah said. “Cleveland’s a very good team but we believe in ourselves.
“I think we’re a confident group. It’ll be great to play them in the playoffs. Very exciting. It’s something I hope happens.”
“Where do we have an advantage? I’m not sure,” said Noah after being asked where the Bulls have an edge. “But you don’t want to skip steps. These next five, six games are very important for us. If the opportunity presents itself for us to play Cleveland again, I would be very happy. We would be very happy as a team to do that.”
The second-place Cavaliers can’t catch Atlanta for the No. 1 seed, and they’re four games up on third-place Chicago. Cleveland is essentially locked in as the No. 2 seed, which could be helpful information for the Bulls.
Chicago is one game ahead of the Raptors and two games ahead of the Wizards. Dropping to that 4/5 first-round series would mean a tougher opening opening opponent in Toronto or Chicago than the sixth-place Bucks. But win that, and you get the Hawks as opposed to the Cavaliers in the second round.
Neither matchup is easy, but I’d rather take my chances with Atlanta.
Of course, Noah and the Bulls feel otherwise. Their team identity is based on this fearlessness, and that’s a big reason they’ve won so much through this injury-riddled season.
The Cavaliers would be favorites if these teams meet in the playoffs, but at least Noah and Chicago would show some some feistiness.