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Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Bulls vs. Heat

May 13, 2011, 2:26 AM EDT

Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson AP

SEASON RECORDS
Bulls: 62-20 (No. 1 seed in East)
Heat: 58-24 (No. 2 seed)

SEASON SERIES
Chicago swept the season series 3-0. The most recent game was in early March, it’s safe to say both these teams are a little different right now. Still, a sweep.

PLAYOFF SERIES
Bulls: defeated Indiana Pacers 4-1, defeated Atlanta Hawks 4-2
Heat: defeated Philadelphia 76ers 4-1, defeated Boston Celtics 4-1

SERIES SCHEDULE (times Eastern)

Game 1 – Sun. May 15 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m.
Game 2 – Wed. May 18 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Game 3 – Sun. May 22 at Miami, 8:30 p.m.
Game 4 – Tue. May 24 at Miami – 8:30 p.m.
Game 5 * Thu. May 26 at Chicago – 8:30 p.m.
Game 6 * Sat. May 28 at Miami – 8:30 p.m.
Game 7 * Mon. May 30 at Chicago – 8:30 p.m.

Every game broadcast on TNT.

KEY INJURIES
Bulls: Carlos Boozer will play through a case of turf toe, which has slowed him through the playoffs but didn’t seem to bother him in Game 6 in Atlanta.
Heat: Udonis Haslem is back and playing, and while there are some conditioning issues to be worked out the Heat will take all the depth up front they can get.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKING (points per possession)
Bulls: Offense 105.4 (12th in NBA); Defense 97.4 (1st in NBA)
Heat: Offense 109.3 (3rd in NBA); Defense: 100.8 (5th in NBA)

THREE KEY BULLS

Derrick Rose: Interesting bit of work over at Teamrankings.com, looking at the percentage of offense Derrick Rose uses when you count in assists, shots, free throws, all of it. In the playoffs, 42.2 percent of Bulls possessions end with Rose making a play when he is on the floor. Only one person — Dwyane Wade in 2006 — has used a higher percentage of his team’s offense in the playoffs (and won a title). Rose is everything to the Bulls. The Heat have two very good defenders to throw at Rose — Wade and Mario Chalmers — and like the Hawks the Heat will trap and do everything they can to get the ball out of his hands. Rose is going to get knocked around. How well he can withstand that and still be efficient will remain the key to the Bulls offense. Also, in the regular season the Heat were good at not fouling Rose, but he needs to get to the line this series.

If Erik Spoelstra decides to use Mike Bibby on Rose, the Heat deserve what they get.

Carlos Boozer: Someone else has to step up and take the scoring pressure off Rose in this series. It should be Boozer, and if he plays like he did in Game 6 it will be. He worked hard off the ball to get to open spaces for a game, his midrange was falling, he needs to do that all of the next series. He will have one of a couple good defenders on him (Joel Anthony or Chris Bosh) but Boozer has to have a good series for the Bulls to have a chance. Luol Deng could easily be substituted in here, the basic rules are the same.

Taj Gibson: Gibson represents the entire Bulls bench — this is one of the biggest advantages the Bulls have, some real depth. The Heat’s bench has been better than advertised and neither the Sixers nor Celtics have taken advantage of it. But the Bulls must. Gibson has to provide a scoring spark off the bench, and the Bulls bench cannot let on the defensive end of the floor.

THREE KEY HEAT

Dwyane Wade: On the defensive end of the floor, he is going to spend time on Rose and he must be physical with the guy at the heart of the Bulls offense. Then, at the other end of the floor, he (and LeBron) needs to be able to penetrate into the paint the way they did against the Celtics. The Bulls will struggle to matchup on Wade one-on-one, but their help defense is much better than the Celtics right now. He has to work off the ball, he has to move the ball to the weak side. He’s going to have to have a monster series.

Chris Bosh: Things are not about to get easier for Bosh — he just had Kevin Garnett on him, now he’s likely to have Joakim Noah (or Joel Anthony, either way a long and active defender). Bosh sets a lot of the screens for the Heat’s pick-and-roll and while Noah is very good at recover to the rolling big man, Bosh needs to make him pay. Bosh needs to be active on the glass at both ends. He was shut down by Kevin Garnett in the Heat’s loss last series, he cannot be shut down this series for the Heat to get through. Also, he will be doing a lot of trapping and spending a lot of time trying to keep Rose out of the paint.

Mario Chalmers: He is the other guy who will spend a lot of the series matched up on Rose. The Heat need to make Rose inefficient, to trap him and get the ball out of his hands — to make someone else on the Bulls beat them. A big part of that will fall to Chalmers, expect him to get a lot more run than Bibby. If we see a lot of Bibby, the Bulls are in trouble in this series.

OUTLOOK

This is the era we live in — last June the Heat had Wade and not much else, the Bulls had Rose and a couple nice role players but were not sure how to get to the next level. Look at them now, meeting for the rights to go to the finals, the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.

And this is going to be a real battle.

Rose is, without a doubt, amazing. But he is about to run into a defense far more athletic than he has seen in the playoffs. The Hawks had some success getting the ball out of Rose’s hands with traps and doubles, but the Heat have better defenders and a far more consistent commitment to defense than anything the Bulls have run into so far this series. Rose has to still be effective and he has to draw fouls.

The Bulls have to get more and more consistent scoring from other places — Deng and Boozer are logical choices. In the regular season meetings the Bulls hit very well from the midrange (47 percent, up from 39 percent usually). They will need to do that again, plus they need Kyle Korver or someone else to knock down threes.

The other key for the Bulls to score, they need to get offensive rebounds. That is one place they can dominate.

For the Heat, they are about to run into the best defense they have seen this postseason. Their advantage is they essentially just played against it — the Celtics also run the Tom Thibodeau defense. The Bulls run it better right now, but the principles of working off the ball and having Wade, LeBron and Bosh all actively involved together at the same time remain.

One interesting thing to watch will be the Heat’s pick-and-roll — primarily Bosh sets the high screen for the Heat pick-and-roll, but that will bring out one of the best big men defenders in the game to deal with it in Noah. His ability to hedge out and disrupt the ball handler then recover to the rolling big man is as good as anybody in the league. If he can slow a key Heat play, it will give the Bulls a big advantage.

PREDICTION

This is going to be one hard-fought series. One very entertaining series. A must watch series if you are a basketball fan. Not high scoring, but great to watch. In the end, the Heat’s defense will be more disruptive and able to slow the Bulls offense enough to pull out the wins. The Bulls will certainly slow the Heat down, but their big three they will still get some key transition points (generated by the defense) and make the midrange shots they missed in the regular season. That will be enough.

Heat in 6.

  1. randommofo - May 13, 2011 at 2:54 AM

    I will never trust a team with Carlos Boozer as its second option.

    Although their defense is fantastic

    • purdueman - May 13, 2011 at 5:20 AM

      Actually Deng has been the Bulls primary second option all season, but it’s a mute point because most (delusional), Miami fans already have the Heat winning the series in four straight.

      While I can’t argue your point about not knowing which Boozer will show up on any given game, the same holds true for Bosh and no one knows which game(s) in the series La Bum is going to decide to not show up for either.

      • southbeachtalent - May 13, 2011 at 8:48 AM

        and when we win we are going to break out into a break-dance. We’ll put some old sugar hill on and just have the whole team take turns doing the worm, and then the robot.

        p.s. a mute point point would be a point without any speech involved?

        Heat in 5

  2. budrow - May 13, 2011 at 5:22 AM

    I’m ready for a throw down! I want to see Chicago get handled by the real MVP. LeBron deserved MVP, he’s better across the board.

  3. dirtybird2020 - May 13, 2011 at 6:31 AM

    Budrow your a bum! Rose is the true mvp he can carry this team to the promised land without another premadonna, lebron needs wades help, ask anyone on the heat roster who their leader is, half will say wade and half will say lebron, ask the bulls who their leader is they will say rose all day! Lebron is no mvp over rose or dwight! The heat still need jordan and pippen to win a championship hahaha

  4. hnirobert3 - May 13, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    Heat in 6.

  5. pl4tinum514 - May 13, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    “He will have one of a couple good defenders on him (Joel Anthony or Joakim Noah) but Boozer has to have a good series for the Bulls to have a chance.”

    I didn’t realize Joakim Noah was on the Heat. Thanks for that.

  6. passerby23 - May 13, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    I picked Chicago to win it all going into the playoffs as I wasn’t sold on the Heat. After the Boston series, they’ve made me a believer. Chicago won’t have enough offensive firepower to hang with the Heat. Rose can only do so much. Heat in 6.

    • chitownmatt - May 13, 2011 at 8:07 PM

      You have to keep in mind that, without Kendrick Perkins, Boston is not the defensive juggernaut they were reputed to be.

      The Heat will not look anywhere nearly as good against the Bulls.

      Watch Taj annoy LBJ to 20 points a game; watch Noah, Asik and Big-Sexy switch Bosh to the “OFF” position; and watch the Bulls win in six.

      Wade will still get 35 a game, but it will be 35 for an “L.”

      • passerby23 - May 16, 2011 at 12:53 AM

        After watching Game 1, you might be right.

  7. rbrown4495 - May 13, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    I EXPECT A GREAT SERIES THAT COULD GO EITHER WAY TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH BUT I ROOT FOR MIAMI. GO HEAT!

    • rbrown4495 - May 13, 2011 at 12:51 PM

      And just wait until next year after Miami addresses their bench issues. How many championships will they have Lebron? 3,4,5,6,7… LOL, I love this game. Go Heat

  8. southbeachtalent - May 13, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    This should indeed be a great series, Rose is one of the greats and if Deng and Boozer get involved the Bulls are nearly unstoppable. Same thing could be said about the Heat. The Bulls do have home court so the Heat will begin this series on the road, something they haven’t done this year. I can’t wait till Sunday, it should be a classic!

  9. chitownjeff - May 13, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    Can’t wait to see those overly emotional drama queens in south beach get it handed to them.. that crap after the Boston series was embarrassing..

    • southbeachtalent - May 13, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      embarassing to you?? Wasn’t for you, neither was their introduction that everyone has their panties in a wad over. It was for us.. Stop watching (hating) my team already worry about your one-man show.

  10. zrbk - May 13, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    A month ago, I would’ve predicted Bulls in 7 or maybe in 5(nah). But Heat seriously impressed me last week. Unless the Bulls find a way to offensively punish the Heat in the paint, they cannot beat the emerging Big Three. Nonetheless, I look forward to an exciting series.

  11. daduts - May 13, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Please proof read the section regarding Boozer and Bosh. I believe you really didn’t mean to say that Noah will defend Boozer and Joel Anthony will defend Bosh.

  12. philtration - May 13, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    This is going to be a good series.

    Of course Miami has to win since they have celebrated the championship twice already.
    While the Heat were acting like they were just handed the trophy and LeBron was desperately seeking attention with his over acting job the other night the Bulls were all business.
    Good.
    That is just what I want to see.

  13. oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    The Heat are going to pay for not having a bench. Can’t win consistently playing 3-on-5 basketball, particularly against a team like the Bulls who play.. well, like a team.

    Bulls in 7.

    • dolphinphan - May 13, 2011 at 11:20 AM

      don’t quote me on this, but I am pretty sure they play 5v5

    • hnirobert3 - May 13, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      Keith Bogans is a contributor to the team? So it’s really 4 v. 3.

      • oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 12:16 PM

        Bogans knows his role, and is frequently rotated out in favor of either Brewer (who is as good a defender as anyone in the league) and Korver.

        Again, this is an incredibly deep Bulls team. They get a lot of production off the bench. All five guys on the court, no matter who they are, play together as a cohesive unit.

    • southbeachtalent - May 13, 2011 at 12:20 PM

      Actually we have won consistently without a bench as you say. I guess you’ve never heard of Joel Anthony? How about James Jones? Chalmers?? Ahhhh I guess we’ll see.

      • oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 12:28 PM

        Yes. And they’re not going to be able to match up against Gibson, Brewer, Korver, and Asik.

  14. Waxxx4321 - May 13, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Again…This series will not go the Length…the Heat will win…easily too…

  15. oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    It’s going to be really satisfying watching the Heat melt down.

  16. fouldwimmerlaik - May 13, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Now that the Heat have finalized their plans for the huge celebration parade on South Beach for beating the Celtics, they can now get ready for the Bulls. They are going to use the same post-parade format they used when they held their Championship Celebration last summer after signing Lebron, Wade, and that big goofy guy they carry around with them.

  17. egls7 - May 13, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    I honestly think its going to go down to game 7. I don’t know who’ll win but either way, its going to be must watch tv!

  18. hnirobert3 - May 13, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    Remember when LBJ talked about covering Rondo in last years Cavs/Celt’s series? I foresee that happening here. If the Heat keep a steady rotation of Chalmers/Wade/James on Rose, they can win this easily. If Bibby spends extended time on Rose, it’ll be tougher. We shall see though.

    • oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      If the Heat are going to try double and triple-teaming Rose, then Deng, Boozer, Gibson, Korver, and even Noah are going to run wild. This is why, as Kurt mentioned above, the Bulls offense goes through Rose 42.2% of the time. Teams focus all of their attention on him (and rightfully so), setting up easy shots for the rest of his team. Beating up Rose will work for a couple games, but it won’t win them the series.

  19. Ryan Karhut - May 13, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    This is going to be an amazing 7 game series…..GO BULLS!!!!!

    LeBron Looking Like A Champion: http://t.co/3jtx7kQ

  20. edweird0 - May 13, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    For all of you foolish enough to think that Rose will dominate the Heat is just plain wrong. The pacers already set the blueprint on how to contain him. the PACERS did that, what do you think the Heat are gunna do?!?! Miami’s bench will not be spectacular by any means but they will continue to provide just the right amount of help as they have been throughout the playoffs.

    • oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 12:30 PM

      Rose doesn’t have to. The offense runs through Rose, but to say he IS the entire offense is misguided. The Bulls play team basketball. If the Heat try to follow the blueprint the Pacers used, then the same thing that happened to the Pacers will happen to the Heat.

      Still, Rose will take over at least a couple games in this series, no matter how the Heat try to defend against him.

      • rbrown4495 - May 13, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        I no you didnt just put Indiana’sdefense on the same level as Miami’s defensive talent. Leave that crack alone son, its frying your brain.

      • oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        Heat fans need to realize that having 3-4 talented players and no team around them isn’t going to help them win it all.

  21. mondzy805 - May 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    It’s about the be Crygate Pt.2, when this series over. Bulls in 7. With each team winning a game on the road. This is a Team game and the Bulls are a better Team. Their 10 deep and Miami is 7 deep, to be nice.

  22. rodge1 - May 13, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Oldhighs, you must be old and high. Rose is a good player but not worth a Heat triple-team unless its a last second shot. This will be a good series but Dallas and Miami in the finals is going to be a great series.

    • oldhighs - May 13, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      Young and sober (today, at least) and watched Derrick Rose destroy double teams all season.

      Even then, it’s not just about stopping Derrick Rose, as tams who put all their effort into stopping Rose have found out.

  23. coltsfanindc - May 13, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    im seeing a lot of idiotic comments from both sides on who’s going to win, lebron is a bum (which is hilarious considering his talent), and rose not deserving the mvp(which he did deserve). But as a Heat fan Im sure EVERYONE on here can agree, if Bosh doesnt show up, Miamii wil not win!!

  24. fouldwimmerlaik - May 13, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    I want so badly to be wrong, but I think the Heat will win this series. Woe betide the NBA.

  25. alltimeballa - May 13, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    for what its worth, the article makes clear that D Rose is respponsible for over 42% of the Bulls offense during the playoffs. Although The Bulls may have been playing team ball all year, the playoffs have been a big dose of D Rose. If this is the approach they take against the Heat, its a wrap. As a team goes deeper into the playoffs, they have to have more than one offensive threat. If the Heat play good defense on the rest of the Bulls, Rose can score 40 points and his team can still lose(remember Lebron in Cleveland). The Heat deserved to celebrate after defeating The Celtics. many people picked them to win it all and said Heat wouldnt get past them. Heat in 6

    • southbeachtalent - May 13, 2011 at 4:57 PM

      alltimeballa,

      you make sense and are un-bias you must not be from around these parts??

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