Cavs still pose challenge without Love, Smith

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(CHICAGO) -- Battling injuries all season, the Chicago Bulls remarkably find themselves the healthier team entering their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup Monday with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs will be without star power forward Kevin Love for the rest of the playoffs after he underwent surgery to repair a separated shoulder he suffered in Cleveland's Game 4 win over Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

Cleveland will also be without sharp-shooter J.R. Smith for the first two games of the series as Smith serves a suspension for slugging the Celtics' Jae Crowder in Game 4.

"Regardless of who is playing, I think the importance of Games 1 and 2 for any team that does not have home court advantage it's still the same," said Bulls forward Pau Gasol. "Our mindset doesn't change we should go in there and try to get the first game."

Of course, the Cavs are no slouch without Love and Smith. LeBron James is the best player on the planet, and averaged better than 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in four regular season contests against the Bulls this season. Kyrie Irving has emerged as a bona fide superstar in his own right.

"[James] can beat you a lot of different ways," said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "It's not only his scoring, but his passing. He's seen every type of defense there is. So we just have to be tied together, try to make them work and you can't neglect the rest of their team. You throw in a guy like Irving, you got two superstars. Then you got a bunch of other guys starring in their roles. We are going to have to play great basketball."

The Bulls and Cavaliers open their series Monday at 6 p.m. CST at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

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