Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat

Posted by By at 15 May, at 17 : 31 PM Print

The Bulls and Heat were the top two teams in the East this year. Unlike in the Western Conference half of this year’s playoff bracket, after the dust of the first two rounds has settled, the top two teams are still standing. Chicago arrived in the conference finals by beating the Pacers in five games and the Hawks in six. Miami took care of both the Sixers and Celtics in five games.

Chicago won all three regular season meetings (99-96, 93-89, and 87-86), but that was then and this is now. The teams have been almost polar opposites so far this post season. While Chicago has played only one more game than Miami they have largely looked the least impressive of the two teams since the playoffs started. The Pacers caused the Bulls more problems than they anticipated, and Chicago relied on late game heroics more than a few times to pull out victories. They looked a  bit better in the Hawks series and finally put together a complete dominant performance in the series clinching game, which surprisingly Rose was not the star in.

Miami did lose a game to the Sixers, but still looked more impressive than Chicago did in their opening round series. Their second round matchup against the Celtics looked much more competitive on paper than it ended up being. LeBron played like a man on a mission and was determined to will his team, single handed if needed, past Doc Rivers’ squad. Dwyane Wade wasn’t to be outdone, averaging 30 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists against the defending Eastern Conference champs. Bosh was erratic on the offensive end, twice being held in single digits, but still averaged a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The two will now meet with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake and there will be no shortage of superstars & intriguing individual matchups on display when the series tips off tomorrow night at 8:00 est on TNT.

Point Guard

Derrick Rose will have a quickness advantage against Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers and will surely try to exploit it as often as possible. Neither Miami point guard should give Rose trouble with penetration as he should be able to keep them in front of him. He will have to stay at home on them when Wade and James drive though as both are more than capable of knocking down the open three. The Bulls are better when Rose plays like he did against the Hawks in game 6, keeping his number of shots down, being efficient, and trusting his teammates instead of trying to force things. Since James and Wade dominate the ball for Miami Chalmers/Bibby are more spot up shooters than offense facilitators. If the Bulls are going to get past the Heat, Rose has to win this matchup and with the amount of time the ball spends in his hands it’s hard to not see that happening.

Edge: Bulls

 

Shooting Guard

While much of the attention for Miami has been focused on LeBron, Wade has been having as good a post season as he did back in 2006, when he lead the Heat to the championship. To say Keith Bogans will have his hands full would be an understatement. Bogans usually makes his impact on the defensive end so he’s got an opportunity to have a huge say in the result of the series if he can limit Wade. Trying to shut him down is going to be near impossible, but making him work for every shot and contesting it will be much appreciated by Tom Thibodeau. Wade will no doubt be helping on Rose’s drives to the bucket, but he can’t lose sight of Bogans hovering around the 3-point line because he’s shooting 49% this post season from behind the arc. To be honest, Wade doesn’t have to do a whole lot to win this matchup and should do so easily.

Edge: Heat

 

Small Forward

LeBron James is probably playing as well as anyone this post season, although I’m sure Zach Randolph and Dirk Nowitzki would have a few arguments made for them. 26 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 steals a game is what Luol Deng gets to deal with for atleast four games. I’m definitely not envious of the task he’s got in front of him. After following Deng the past few years, he’s no doubt relishing the chance to go head-to-head with the two-time MVP. He’s got the length to prevent James from getting too clean a look over him for his jumpers, but will surely be at a disadvantage in the post as James is a strong as most power forwards. Deng is much improved on the offensive end so LeBron won’t have a cake walk on defense. Deng has a solid mid-range game, effective three point shot, and is capable of putting the ball on the floor. Like Bogans, Deng has the opportunity to put his stamp on the series in a big way on the defensive end. On the flip side, so does James. Deng has largely been Chicago’s second scoring option this season and if James can limit him, Chicago would essentially become one dimensional¬† if Boozer doesn’t show up.

Edge: Heat

 

Power Forward

Both Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh have been inconsistent this post season which makes this matchup tough to call. There are alot of “ifs” for both players that could tip it each players favor. If Boozer plays like he did in game 6 against Atlanta he could get the best of Bosh. If Bosh plays less on the perimeter and more down low he could put up big points against a weak post defender in Boozer, who has shown a tendency to get into foul trouble. Boozer definitely has more pressure on him than Bosh does. Bosh is clearly the third option where Boozer has to step up and be the second option he was signed to be. If he doesn’t it will cause Rose to try to do too much and that will lead to a dysfunctional Bulls offense. Which Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh will will show up is probably a coin toss each game and both will probably end up canceling each other out more often than not.

Edge: Push

 

Center

One thing that’s certain in this series is that there won’t be anything pretty about Joakim Noah versus Joel Anthony down low. Neither will have plays run for them and will probably get their points off penetration passes and offensive rebounds. What that will allow them both do is help out their teammates on the defensive end. With Rose probably spending alot of time in Miami’s paint, Anthony will be the last line of defense in keeping him from getting to the rim. The same can be said for Noah. Wade and James do alot of their damage driving to the bucket and Noah’s long arms could cause both to alter their shots just enough to make them miss. Noah probably has bit more impact on the offensive end so I’ll give him the edge, but the rebounding and blocked shots should be fairly even.

Edge: Noah

 

Bench

With Wade and James both off the floor Miami generally struggles to score. Mike Miller has been non-existent. Chalmers has been struggling with his shot. James Jones will probably be Miami’s best player off the bench, but if his shot isn’t falling he won’t offer much else. Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will only see minutes to spell Anthony and Bosh when they need a break or if either gets in foul trouble.

If Chicago wins the series this will probably be how. Tom Thibodeau’s bench was one of the best in the league during the regular season. Omer Asik, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, and Taj Gibson all play significant minutes, and not just when someone’s in foul trouble. Asik doesn’t offer much on the offensive end, but his defense and hustle will be needed as Boozer could have a tough time with Bosh. The same can be said for Gibson, except he provides more of an offensive punch than Asik. Korver’s shooting cannot be ignored by Miami’s wind defenders. Brewer will probably see alot of minutes on Wade and gives Thibodeau an extra 6 fouls to use on him. Rose doesn’t come off the court too often, but when he does Watson does a solid job running the offense.

Edge: Bulls

 

Conclusion

Miami is on a roll right now and come into the series playing better overall. Boozer and Deng have to step up in support of Rose or else this series will get ugly for Chicago in a hurry if he’s forced to do it on his own. That being said, Rose has to trust them to play up to their capabilities. If he forces things it will play into Miami’s hands as his missed shots will lead to easy transition baskets for the Heat. The Heat have more certainties than the Bulls which makes it easier to pick them. Wade and LeBron will do their thing leaving Bosh to just break even in his matchup with Boozer. We know Rose will get his, but Boozer and Deng have too many question marks around them (inconsistency for Boozer and James’ defense presence for Deng) to say they will get theirs.

Pick: Heat in 7

 

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