Mar 6, 2011, 4:45 PM EDT
For many this s going to be about Miami losing again in a close game against an elite team (87-86 to the Bulls).
About the Heat players crying in the locker room afterward. About how the Heat are now 1-16 this season on shots to tie or win in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter. About how Erik Spoelstra can’t draw up the right play or motivate his team. About whether that pushing foul on Mike Miller after Luol Deng missed crucial free throws was really a foul (no, it wasn’t). About how the Heat were the more desperate team but still lost.
What should this game be about?
Officially welcoming the Chicago Bulls into the ranks of NBA title contenders.
The Bulls have just enough offense and plenty of defense. A Heat team that scores 110.7 points per 100 possessions during the season was held to 101.2 in this game. On the final play, the Bulls anticipated the Heat trying to get the switch of a big man on to LeBron James off a pick, but with Joakim Noah and his length and quickness there is no mismatch. Then Dwyane Wade hustled to get the offensive board, but the long arms of Luol Deng were there to contest that shot.
It would be wrong to say the Heat are not executing their plays at the end of games, because that would imply they are running plays. The Heat are falling back to isolations or a pick at best. The offense — which isn’t that complex to begin with — goes the way of the Dodo bird late in games.
The Heat had an early lead in this one by double digits at points (led by 9 at the half) because their defense forced turnovers. The Heat had 20 points in the paint in the first half, just half that in the second half. The Bulls adjusted and the Heat settled.
The Bulls were not perfect. Rose, who played a great game, blew off the Tom Thibodeau play call to try to get isolated on Wade late, then launched and missed a three that was a poor shot. Carlos Boozer didn’t bother to make the rotation to stop drive by Mario Chalmers what put the Heat up two late.
(Chalmers was the best Heat player down the stretch, hitting big shots like he was still winning a national title at Kansas. He had the Heat’s last five points.)
But those were the exceptions. The Bulls played within themselves. They got enough offense out of Rose (27), Boozer (12) and a great game by Deng (18) to get the win.
Sure, the Bulls caught some breaks. Ask any champion if they caught some breaks. The Bulls were able to control the pace in the second half (once they limited turnovers) and the Heat — even with their big three — could not score against that defense consistently.
The Bulls are in the mix as contenders. I’m not convinced they will win until they find a way to get some easier buckets once in a while (Rose is spectacular but I don’t think he knows was an easy bucket is), but they are scoring enough.
Enough to leave the Heat in tears. Enough to be title contenders.
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