Derrick Rose knows what’s in front of him.
He saw it materialize all summer long playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup.
The maturation of Cleveland point Kyrie Irving was on a stage for all to see.
And as much as the 2010 summer with Team USA catapulted Rose into MVP status once the regular season started, Irving might have taken the same crash course.
“I think that’s with anybody that plays for USA or in the Olympics,’’ Rose said of the emergence of Irving. “If you’re on that team you’re going to play good basketball when you come back into the regular season. As far as him as a player, he’s a great player, a great young player. He demands a lot of attention whenever he does have the ball, and that’s what we have to give him.’’
More specifically, that’s what Rose will have to give him.
All eyes were on Irving in the first-round elimination of Boston, as there were questions on how he would handle his playoff debut. Questions answered.
Irving averaged 40.8 minutes per game, averaging 23.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the best-of-seven sweep. The perfect Robin to LeBron James’ Batman.
In his four games against the Bulls during the regular season, Irving averaged 21.3 points and 6.5 assists, facing off against Rose in three of those games. Call it a wash.
Rose got Irving and the Cavs in the Feb. 12 Bulls win – their only win of the four meetings – lighting him up for 30 points and handing out seven assists, but in their previous two meetings, Irving combined for 41 points, while Rose had 38.
The difference between the two point guards right now, however? Consistency. The Bulls have no idea which Rose they’re going to get from game-to-game. The same can’t be said of Irving. And with the first six games every other day, that doesn’t bode well for Rose.
Advantage: Irving – Cavaliers
Pau Gasol vs. Timofey Mozgov
Mozgov was the perfect fit in Cleveland – a much-needed big body. The problem is Gasol is a skilled big body. The Bulls are counting on two championships to outweigh Mozgov, and need to win this battle on an almost nightly basis.
Advantage: Gasol – BULLS
Mike Dunleavy vs. Iman Shumpert or Shawn Marion
At least until J.R. Smith gets back from two games of suspension and Kevin Love out, the Cavs will be forced to go small. That means the likes of Shumpert or Marion, while James could play power forward. It will be a complete contrast of matchups, and Dunleavy will have to adapt.
Advantage: Dunleavy – BULLS
Joakim Noah vs. James Jones or Marion
If the Cavs do start James at the big forward spot, Noah won’t guard him anyway. That means he’ll be chasing the likes of Jones or Marion, as the Cavs will try and use the Bulls size against them. Noah has the versatility to guard smaller players, and should dominate the paint.
Advantage: Noah – BULLS
Jimmy Butler vs. LeBron James
Butler was drafted four years ago to someday be the KingSlayer. That time is now. Butler prides himself on being an elite stopper? Well, his mission now is to try and stop the best player on the planet. The concern will be how much energy will Butler put out on defense, and how will that mess with his offense?
Advantage: James – Cavaliers
Bulls bench vs. Cavaliers bench
This is not even close, and this is where this series could be won or lost. Tristan Thompson is a beast on the boards and Matthew Dellavedova is pesky, but it’s a thin Cavs bench at best.
Prediction: BULLS in six. Too many mismatches without Love.