BOB COONEY

If you're a basketball purist, this series will be one for you, full of tough defense that will often make for low-scoring games. The Bulls were first in the NBA, allowing only 88.2 points a game, the Sixers third at 89.4. Both teams' defenses hold opponents to less than 43 percent shooting.

Going into this series, so many questions surround both teams, the biggest being the health of Bulls star guard Derrick Rose. He has missed significant time this season with injuries, the latest a sprained ankle. Coach Tom Thibodeau said after Wednesday's game against Indiana that Rose's burst is back and that he's fully recovered.

The Sixers won four games in a row down the stretch, all on the road, and players and coaches say they are playing their best basketball of the season. But coach Doug Collins was still auditioning players at the end of the season to see who his starting center would be. And he has said all along that in order to beat the Bulls rebounding is a key. I think Rose is the bigger key. He triggers everything. If he's close to 100 percent, he's just too much for the Sixers to handle.

If Chicago wins in five, it wouldn't surprise me, but I'll go with what I bet is the popular pick.

Bulls in 6

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DICK JERARDI

Can the Sixers score enough to win four games against the Bulls and defend as they did most of the season, until falling off dramatically at the end? They must make Derrick Rose into a volume shooter with a low shooting percentage, control the defensive glass, and score. One or two is possible. Three is not likely.

Bulls in 5

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MARCUS HAYES

Maybe . . .

Maybe they funnel MVP Derrick Rose to the middle just right, force him to take tough shots, wear him down by the third game.

Maybe they get a break and Luol Deng can't shoot straight.

Maybe Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner take over the team, just in time.

Why not?

Sixers in 6

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JOHN SMALLWOOD

The Sixers tanked their final regular-season game to assure they would be in Chicago for the opening round, now they have to deal with top-seeded Bulls. Just because it's a better matchup than the Miami Heat doesn't mean it's a good one for the Sixers.

If reigning MVP Derrick Rose, who missed 27 games, is healthy, Chicago will have the three best players - Rose, All-Star Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. The Sixers won't be able to score enough against a team that led the league in scoring defense and scoring differential.

The Bulls also led the league in rebounds (46.7) and rebound differential (plus-6.7), which should hamper the Sixers' fastbreak ability. Most of this series will be played in the halfcourt, meaning the Sixers can't win.

Bulls in 6