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Are these the Bulls’ top 10 games of 2014-15?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Aug 13
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The NBA sure knows how to start a party. This one is the 2014-15 regular season NBA celebration, and for the Bulls it begins with a bang in New York against the Knicks October 29 and then for the Bulls’ home opener against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers Halloween night, October 31.
It’s an appropriate kick start to the engine of a much anticipated season after yet another exciting summer of free agency in which James surprisingly returned to Cleveland and the Bulls acquired All-Star center Pau Gasol after being rebuffed by Carmelo Anthony, who returned to the Knicks. It’s still expected Minnesota’s Kevin Love gets traded to join James in Cleveland.
The Western Conference lines up as deep as ever with the Houston Rockets uncertain about even being a playoff team despite having Dwight Howard and James Harden. It’s a topsy turvy Eastern Conference as well with the Indiana Pacers not likely playoff contenders anymore with the injury loss of Paul George and free agency departure of Lance Stephenson. Also, the Heat with the departure of James become a team fighting for a playoff spot even as they added former Bull Luol Deng. Much depends on the uncertain health of Dwyane Wade.
And health, of course, always is a concern with the Bulls and Derrick Rose. Though the NBA seems optimistic as the Bulls are scheduled for a maximum number of elite national games against the Cavaliers and the top Western teams once the ABC broadcasts take over in March and April.
The Bulls are one of the featured Christmas games hosting Kobe Bryant (and Carlos Boozer) on Christmas night. The Bulls also play on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The anticipated start with the Knicks and Cavs provides the usual difficult beginning for the Bulls with the November circus trip to the Western Conference. The Bulls will have 20 back to back games overall, which is somewhat above the league average. The Bulls also have two four in five nights sets, the first one November 4-8. The schedule eases off the last two months with two back to backs after March 9.
The Bulls also start with a brutal 12 of their first 17 games on the road through the end of November with a seven-game 14-day road trip. The Bulls have three back to back sets in their first seven games. And then in a curious travel challenge, the Bulls return home for one game December 2 and then go back on the road to Charlotte the next night. That’s always a concerning back to back as Midwest teams dislike a second on the road back to back going from the Central to Eastern time zone. The Bulls have three of those Central/Eastern sets in December, making those first two months the schedule test of the season. Plus, the circus trip has the usual pot holes with three days off after the first game and then two sets of back to backs in six days.
It’s also another terrific Christmas Day schedule for the league starting with Wizards/Knicks and then Thunder/Spurs, Cavs/Miami, Lakers/Bulls and Warriors/Clippers.
Opening night is October 28 with the Spurs getting their title rings and playing the Mavericks, who took them to seven games in the opening playoff round and enhanced their team in the offseason. The second game is the return from injury of Kobe Bryant against the Rockets and former Laker Dwight Howard. LeBron James’ first game back with Cleveland is home October 30 against the Knicks and then the next night for Cleveland in Chicago. Following Bulls/Cavs in the TV double header will be Lakers/Clippers.
Here’s a look at one view of the top 10 Bulls games of 2014-15:
- Cavs at Bulls, Friday, October 31: Bulls home opener. Wow! You figure the NBA did some late schedule tricks to get this one. LeBron’s Cavs perhaps with Kevin Love are in the United Center for the expected conference finals preview. There’s not many statements to make or measuring sticks to consider in October. So make it one just for fun. And on Halloween, no less. What a treat.
- Bulls at Cavs, Sunday, April 5: No excuses by this time. It could be for the division, the conference, playoff home court advantage on the penultimate regular season Sunday of the season on national TV. Assuming everyone, of course, has remained healthy. You figure ABC has some backup games just in case.
- Lakers at Bulls, Thursday, December 25: Christmas Night. Not much for the competition as the Lakers are not expected to be a playoff team. But it’s the NBA’s big Christmas Day slate, which the Bulls are closing at night. It’s the first Chicago return for Carlos Boozer and first Lakers’ game for Pau Gasol. Plus, it’s Kobe back in Chicago, where he likes to put on a show. Or try.
- Bulls at Knicks, Wednesday, October 29: The regular season opener in Madison Square Garden. It brings with it a little more as the Bulls spent much of the offseason trying to recruit free agent Carmelo Anthony, who instead returned to New York to play for Phil Jackson’s team. Anthony will be trying to show he didn’t make that big a mistake.
- Bulls at Cavs, Monday, January 19: It’s the annual Martin Luther King schedule of games, one of the two major days of NBA games along with Christmas Day. It’s clear the networks and the NBA for this game believe Bulls/Cavs are the games to feature this season.
- Bulls at Miami, Thursday, April 9: The last TNT national regular season game. A chance for the Bulls to knock the Heat out of the playoffs? The Bulls will have faced Luol Deng for the first time Sunday December 14 in Miami and Deng’s first game back in Chicago Sunday January 25, the Sunday before the Super Bowl. The Heat is expected to make the playoffs and compete for a top four spot even without LeBron James. But if Dwyane Wade’s knees don’t respond, they could be fighting for eighth in late April as well.
- Cavs at Bulls, Thursday, February 12: It’s the final regular season appearance of James and the Cavs in Chicago in the TNT Thursday night game before All-Star weekend, which is stretched to about a week off this season with the Bulls first game after the break not until February 20. Figure a lot of All-Stars playing in the late Thursday game who then have to get to New York/Brooklyn for the Friday morning events.
- Spurs at Bulls, Thursday, January 22: You get the idea the Bulls are going to be on national TV a lot. It’s the only appearance of the season in Chicago of the defending champions loaded with future Hall of Famers. The Bulls get a Sunday TV game against them in March along with March Sunday likely national TV games against the Clippers and Thunder. Of course, by this time in January many of those Spurs likely won’t be playing to rest for the playoffs. But it’s always a delight to see the Spurs’ style of play in action. And unless you’re really good you don’t beat their subs, anyway.
- Warriors at Bulls, Saturday, December 6: How’s Steve Kerr going to be as coach? They’re one of the league’s more entertaining teams with the hot shooting backcourt and now Kerr to see if he is can get to Point C.
- Bulls at Bucks, Wednesday, November 5: An early season game against a non playoff team. But it’s the first good look at Chicagoan Jabari Parker, the Bucks’ top draft choice, No. 2 overall. It concludes rookie week with Nov. 1 at Minnesota, where Andrew Wiggins may well be if there is a Kevin Love trade and Nov. 4 in the United Center Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton with Orlando.