Wow! There are a lot of media outlets covering the NBA and as the links showed today, almost all of them have previews for the first round of the NBA's first playoffs, including the Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls.
Consensus, check that, unanimity has the Bulls wining the 8 vs. 1 matchup, most in 4 to 5 games. I've found it somewhat humorous to read various break downs, trying to apply some rationale behind why the Pacers don't have a chance.
Good luck trying to review the past to predict the future with this Pacers team. Stats can reveal their general strengths and weaknesses, but from game-to-game the fluctuations in production can be so great that you would simply be guessing. Trends don't seem to hold up with this crew from game to game. Plus, this is a different team than the Jim O'Brien-led team that squandered much of December and January.
The Pacers CAN take care of the ball and minimize turnovers. They CAN make a high percentage of shots. They CAN win the battle on the glass and the free throw differential. Even against a strong defensive team like Chicago, the Pacers CAN do all of the above.
They've done so several times this season and put together wins against some of the elite teams in the league. Unfortunately, the Pacers just haven't been able to consistently put those types of efforts together. That is what you are betting against in this series.
The Pacers could beat the Bulls four times, but that would require a drastic change in the way they approached games from that of the regular season. The Pacers haven't been mature enough to sustain a high-level of play for a long stretch, so I wouldn't expect that to suddenly change in the playoffs.
The odds are even longer since the Bulls have proven to be nothing if not consistent at bringing a winning effort to the gym for every game. The Pacers could play plenty well and still lose to the Bulls, but it will be the Pacers' tendency to put forth a lottery level effort that will give the Bulls a couple of blowouts which is the recipe for a short series.
So while a sweep is certainly easy to conjure up on the eve of the series opener, I'll give the Pacers at least two wins, betting that the intensity of the playoffs will keep their focus and effort tuned into the task at hand, forcing the Bulls to beat them, rather than their mistakes.