LeBron-James-reacts-150426G300The rivalry between LeBron James and Joakim Noah resumes on Tuesday morning when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Chicago Bulls in the opening of their Eastern Conference second-round playoffs series.

Although James has been a central piece for the Cavaliers, the four-time MVP could face a tougher opposition from Chicago, especially as they enter the series without starters Kevin Love, who has been ruled out for remaining of the season due to a left shoulder injured, and JR Smith who has suspended two games.

And, history plays in favour of James who has never lost to Chicago in the playoffs.

“Yes, I’ve had success but that doesn’t mean anything today. My approach is always the same but every playoff run is different and for me I have to make sure myself and my guys are ready for a very, very competitive and well-coached ball club,” James said.

This is a best-of-seven series and although the Cavaliers are slightly favourite, the series could go either way, especially as the Bulls are one of the most defensive-minded teams in the league.

Cavaliers coach David Blatt said: “Kevin and JR allowed us to do certain things on offence and defence. Now we’ve got to find other ways to replace them.”

Bulls guard Derrick Rose seems to be playing at his best again after enduring a sequence of injuries, which forced him out an entire season.

Rose, along with Jimmy Buttler and Spaniard Pau Gasol, may cause the Cavaliers serious offensive trouble, but Blatt knows how to respond.

“We’re gonna have to defend at the highest level. That’s the only way we’ll give ourselves a chance,” said the first-year coach.

The Cavaliers advanced to the second round after completing a sweep of the Boston Celtics, but they may still be wondering whether or not Mike Miller and Shawn Marion will be up to the task, replacing Love and Smith.

On the other hand, the Bulls needed to step up to eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6.

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau feels that a team which includes James and former Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving should not be called shorthanded.

And, he knows one thing for certain. The Bulls will need to work hard to stop James. “The only thing you can do with him is try to make him work for his points,” Thibodeau said.

“You can’t really give him a steady diet of anything. You have to mix it up on him. The thing that makes him who he is he can beat you a lot of different ways. It’s not only his scoring. It’s his passing. He’s seen every type of defense there is.”

Cleveland beat Chicago in three of their regular-season games, but opening the second round at home might not be synonymous with victory.


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