MILWAUKEE – Cleveland has never been a “vacation’’ destination for Joakim Noah.
He made that very clear back in 2010, when he declared “Cleveland really sucks.’’
That’s why the Bulls big man even surprised himself with what came out of his mouth following the close-out game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
“But you know what?’’ Noah said, following the 120-66 Game 6 laugher. “I never thought I would say this but I’m very excited to go to Cleveland.’’
That’s because Noah and his teammates know what awaits.
Five years of frustration. Three of those years being removed from the playoffs up-close-and personal by a LeBron James-led team. Now with James back with the Cavaliers, it’s almost come full circle, and Noah wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Just going to enjoy the moment right now, so we’re very, very excited about the upcoming task,’’ Noah said.
Asked if he always felt that he would have to go through James yet once again, Noah responded, “Yeah, cause that’s the way it’s been for quite a while now.’’
But it’s more than just Noah seeking revenge and angering an entire city.
The ramifications of this upcoming best-of-seven series is huge for both franchises. First, there’s a good chance that the losing coach is out of a job. Secondly, the losing team will have some serious soul searching to do as they move forward with the building of their roster.
Just another second-round matchup in the Eastern Conference? Not even close, unless you’re Derrick Rose of course.
“Take it like every other series,’’ Rose said of facing Cleveland. “They’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of experience on that team, a lot of young players on that team that are willing to show people what they have, and just got to be ready for them. You play against them, you know you gotta get back. You’ve got to take momentum away, and it should be a fun series.’’
Asked if he was excited for the showdown with James for the first time since the 2010-11 series in which James’ then Heat team beat the then-top-seeded Bulls, Rose replied, “I mean it could have been anybody. It could have been my mom, I would have been happy. I’m just happy to be playing again and happy to be on the court.’’
First things first for the Bulls, and that was finishing off a Bucks team that had been down 3-0 in the series, only to come back and win back-to-back games heading into Thursday’s Game 6 at the Bradley Center.
The Bulls made sure it was over quickly, both on the scoreboard and with their physical play.
Less than two minutes into the game, Mike Dunleavy, who finished with a game-high 20 points, appeared to put his fist into the mouth area of Michael Carter-Williams, sending the second-year player to the locker room. Dunleavy wasn’t done hurting the Bucks, either, scoring eight quick points, including two three-pointers.
Then Pau Gasol took over, scoring 13 in the first quarter, and passing the baton to Jimmy Butler.
By the end of the first, it was 34-16 Bulls, and they were just getting started in the largest win in the team’s playoff history. By the half, it was 65-33, and all but over, as the 54-point loss was also the largest in Bucks history – regular or postseason.
“It looks a lot better when the ball goes in,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said of the one-sided win.
The Bulls will now have three days to rest up, as they prepare for James and Cleveland.
They’ll need it.