For the here and now Chicago Sports are the envy of the rest in the United States and it all centers around West Madison Street. The Chicago Blackhawks last night took a commanding 3-0 series lead and appear as though they’re headed to their third straight conference finals. The Chicago Bulls quickly gained home court advantage in their best of seven series against the Cavaliers and tonight they’ll look to take control if they can go up 2-0 in the series heading back to the United Center.
The difference this time around is that the two best players in the city are rounding into form in just the right time. Derrick Rose is putting all his injuries of the past aside and he’s now becoming the MVP caliber player he was before his first knee injury a few years back against the Sixers. Patrick Kane on the other hand has recovered nicely from his clavicle injury that shortened his regular season by 21 games. In these playoffs Kane has 11 points in nine games while having scored five goals in the past four games including the last two game-winners for the Blackhawks in their series against the Wild.
Derrick Rose’s injuries are far more prevalent and known about than was Kane’s singular problem. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2012 Rose tore his ACL and from that point on it has been one season ending injury after another. In this year’s playoffs Rose’s averaging 37 minutes per game while averaging nearly 20ppg, in addition to adding six assists and four rebounds which are improvements from his regular season numbers this year, and on par with his career averages.
Now it appears as though Rose’s back and he’s all the difference at this point. The Bulls didn’t have the best regular season by any stretch but it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility for both the Bulls and Blackhawks to be hosting the conference finals in their respective sports, thus making Chicago’s “Madhouse on Madison” the place to be for the next couple of weeks.
The Bulls and Blackhawks have had elongated periods of success now and this year could be the pinnacle for both franchises. The Blackhawks have been the NHL’s premier franchise for a few years now, but the Bulls have lived in the shadows of the Heat, Spurs, Lakers, and Celtics for the most part since Derrick Rose came into the league. This year the Bulls caught a huge break from the Celtics when Kelly Olynyk dislocated Kevin Love’s shoulder causing him to miss the rest of the playoffs. Now the big three for Cleveland is down to Lebron and Kyrie having to shoulder the load.
The Bulls are nowhere near a lock to win this series, but taking Game 1 and adding more pressure on Lebron to have to salvage a split is never a bad thing. For the Blackhawks they just keep chugging along like they have been for the better part of five years. Two Stanley Cups and a few more appearances in the conference finals has made them a city highlight in the later part of the spring season. Tonight will be a huge opportunity for the Bulls to give themselves a chance to advance to the next round. Expect the Cavaliers to play with real desperation and heart this evening.