Are they beatable, these Chicago Bulls? The Indiana Pacers think so. They have the scorers, the big center, the versatile point guard and the deep bench with which to find out.
Not to mention coach of the year Larry Bird, who has instilled confidence and poise during his first season, bringing the Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals."So why not?" Reggie Miller asked Friday, two days before Game 1 at the United Center.
"If I remember right, they didn't go 82-0," Miller said. "Anything is possible. We've got players who are willing to step up and hit big shots and play defense. Everyone is beatable this year."
The Bulls are 7-1 so far in the playoffs, but needed overtime for one opening-round victory over New Jersey and were beaten at home by Charlotte in the semifinals.
Bird doesn't agree that the Bulls are playing poorly. And really, as long as they have Michael Jordan, who's averaging 32 points in the postseason, they can look lousy at times and still win.
"They only lost one game, I don't know how they are going to be struggling," Bird said.
"They're going to Michael. Michael's been scoring for them his whole career. He's the reason they won so many championships. I don't see him struggling."
The Jordan-Miller matchup will an interesting subplot in the first playoff meeting between the teams. The stars attack one another, often jawing and flailing arms and bumping for position.
Miller can bother Jordan with both his play and his antics.
In the last regular-season meeting between the teams, won by the Pacers, an irritated Jordan - who'd jostled with Miller all game - fired the ball in frustration at Pacers guard Mark Jackson, hitting him the head.
"It's a rivalry right now, and it's even more so in the conference finals," Scottie Pippen said Friday.
"And with the altercation between Michael and Jackson they are going to come in here and try to bang us around. It's going to be a physical series.
"We realize we have to play much better than the last series or we will get it handed to us," Pippen added.
The Pacers' strong bench, led by Jalen Rose, Antonio Davis and Travis Best, is of concern to the Bulls. But so is containing Jackson, who was such a key to Indiana's semifinal victory over the Knicks.
"Mark is their floor leader. We've got to take him out of the game for them to be ineffective," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said.