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PBT NBA Playoff Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat

May 6, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Miami Heat's James drives against Chicago Bulls' Deng in first half NBA game in Miami

SEASON RECORDS

Chicago: 45-37, five seed in the East

Miami: 66-16, one seed in the East, best record in the NBA

PLAYOFF RECORDS

Chicago: Beat the Brooklyn Nets 4-3

Miami: Swept the Milwaukee Bucks 4-0

SEASON SERIES

The teams split the four meetings with two wins apiece. The Bulls snapped the Heat’s 27-game winning streak on March 27.

KEY INJURIES

The Bulls are likely to be without Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng at least to start the series, just as they were for their Game 7 win in Brooklyn over the Nets. There is no change to the status of Derrick Rose, who is expected to continue to be out for the rest of the playoffs.

Dwyane Wade missed Game 4 against the Bucks with a sore knee, but will have had eight days to rest by the time Game 1 against the Bulls tips off on Monday. He’s expected back.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession) – PLAYOFFS ONLY

Chicago: Offense 102.3 (9th in the postseason), Defense 104.9 (Tied-10th in the postseason)

Miami: Offense 108.6 (4th in the postseason), Defense 91.5 (3rd in the postseason)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES:

Rest or rust for Miami? The Heat have been so dominant in winning 41 of their last 43 games that sadly, it’s come to worrying about whether or not an eight-day layoff between the first and second round of the playoffs should be cause for concern. It isn’t. If Miami shows any signs at all of being out of sync, it won’t last beyond the first quarter of Game 1. The Bulls would be wise to maximize that opportunity to the fullest should it actually present itself.

For the Bulls, it’s all about defense: In order for the Bulls to have a shot in this series, they’ll need to contain LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, while still managing to get out and contest Miami’s three-point shooters. (Oh, is that all?) It starts with scoring enough so that Miami is taking the ball out of the net instead of off the glass, where the Heat can be as dangerous as any team in the league if they’re able to get out in transition. Even containing Miami’s scoring on the secondary break can be a problem for defenses to stop, so finding that balance between crashing for offensive rebounds and getting back to limit fast break opportunities will be critical for the Bulls, who will have the best chance to slow the Heat while defending them in traditional halfcourt sets.

Miami was second in the league during the regular season in three-point shooting percentage (trailing only the Golden State Warriors), and was sixth in the league in attempting more than 22 shots per game from beyond the arc. A lot of that comes from drive-and-kick actions from James and Wade, so playing team defense on the slashers with the interior players while staying at home on the shooters (or at least making sure to close out on them with purpose) is going to be another area of concentration defensively for the Bulls.

For the Heat, it’s all about intensity: The Bulls play extremely hard, all night,  every night, no matter who is or is not in their lineup. The intensity with which Chicago approaches every single possession is the reason that despite the multitude of injuries the team has dealt with this season, it was still able to win a Game 7 on the road to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The injuries to Deng and Hinrich that will likely keep them out for the first game or two of this series will hurt the Bulls overall, but it won’t hurt what they do offensively. Much like the Spurs, the Bulls are a system team that doesn’t rely too heavily on one or two players to carry the bulk of the scoring load on a nightly basis. If Nate Robinson, for example, isn’t forcing the issue and is converting at a relatively acceptable percentage, then Tom Thibodeau will ride him as long as possible. If not, he has no problem going elsewhere to get the desired results.

Miami is far and away the better team in this series. The only thing that can even the playing field for Chicago is if the Heat decide to cruise for extended stretches, and let the Bulls gain confidence while they’re still expending maximum energy.

OUTLOOK

The injuries to Deng and Hinrich are a much bigger deal in this series than they turned out to be for the Bulls against the Nets. Hinrich is excellent defensively, and Deng can legitimately impact the game on both ends of the floor. Without those two, there is much less room for error for the Bulls, especially opening on the road against the defending champs.

Expect Miami to impose its will early in this series to crush any hope the Bulls might have of stealing a game or two to try to make it interesting. Chicago will continue to play hard, but the team isn’t likely to have enough to beat the Heat more than once, and even that seems like a bit of a stretch.

PREDICTION

Heat to sweep in four games.

  1. pudgalvin - May 6, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Really, a sweep? I don’t know about that. Even with their injuries, the Bulls play a style that at least bothers the Heat a little. At least one win for the Bulls, maybe two.

  2. crnvic847 - May 6, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    Someone thinks the Heat are going to sweep their way to a Championship. Not gonna happen. The Bulls will snap another streak. But the Heat do win this series hands down. Heat in 5.

    • pudgalvin - May 6, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      The Heat didn’t exactly blow the doors off the Bucks in round 1, and the Heat have a combined regular season record 3-4 record of the Bulls and Pacers this year. The Heat are damn good, but they’re not unbeatable.

      • lmoneyfresh - May 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        I’m a bulls fan and yes, the heat did blow the doors off the Bucks. This is the playoffs, teams don’t often get blown out and yet the heat won every game in that series by 11 or more pts. That’s a certifiable beatdown in my book.

      • heat256 - May 6, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        Yeah, when you sweep your series by winning each game by double digits, that’s a door blowing moment. My worry is that the Heat are rusty, but that rust will most likely be shed after the dirst quarter. I respect the Bulls, but do not fear them. They are too banged up and limited offensively to pose much of a threat. That the Jekyll/Hyde Nets took them to 7 was a testiment to the lack of offensive effeciency they have (the triple OT outburst not withstanding), and the lack of depth caused by injuries and a season of heavy minutes. I see the Heat in five, but would not be surprised if they swept them. The Bulls miss Rose and Asik more than they can put into words I think.

      • pudgalvin - May 6, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        The spurs blew the doors off the Lakers. The heat went to the half in 3 of 4 games within 5 points of the easily the worst team in the playoffs, and they went to the fourth within 3 points in two of the 4 games. That’s not demolishing a team. That’s being a much better team and cruising to wins.

      • hehateme2 - May 6, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        The HEAT have looked bored. That’s what happens when you’re that much better than all the rest. HEAT in 5.

  3. 1972wasalongtimeago - May 6, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    Let’s Get this Mother Bleeper On Already!!!!!!!!

  4. mungman69 - May 6, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Heat in 4. Maybe 5. No more.

  5. BigBeachBall - May 6, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    drink a shot every time noah shoots a jumper…

  6. jimmymarlinsfan - May 6, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Go Heat!

  7. canehouse - May 6, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Sweep? Not according to Noah… He proclaimed that it will be a war.

    Heat in 5

  8. comeonnowguys - May 6, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    The Bulls look like the Looney Tunes at the end of Space Jam, completely with Luol playing the part of tweety in the iron lung.

    I’m glad they exposed how sad and soft the Nets are, but come on. Unless Bill Murray–I mean Derrick Rose–comes in late to save them, it’s a sweep, unfortunately.

  9. starship7 - May 6, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    They would beat the Bulls even with a healthy Derrick Rose.

    • michaelzien - May 6, 2013 at 4:17 PM

      The Bulls do have a healthy Derrick Rose. He is just choosing not to play. And you are right. Heat still beat the Bulls. It’s a shame Rose won’t even give it a try.

  10. lakerade - May 6, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Injuries are undefeated. That being said, if any team has shown the possibility of an upset over injuries this season, it’s the Bulls. Still, it would take more injuries (on the Heat’s part) to actually turn the series.

    • gmsingh - May 6, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      LeBron gets hurt and the Heat are royally screwed.

  11. DonRSD - May 6, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    LET’S GO HEAT!!!

  12. gmsingh - May 6, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    It looks like they’re still teasing us with the return of Derrick Rose. This is the exact same plot as a lot of porno movies.

  13. iowahbr - May 6, 2013 at 10:00 PM

    All the TNT analysts save Mr. Bowtie Johnson need to foregone 1 week’s salary for their pre-game call tonight on the Bulls at Miami. LJ needs to worry more about his game and less about his shoes.

  14. kansacity88 - May 6, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    Heat sweep……..Hmmmm………..so much for that, eh?

    • raysfan1 - May 6, 2013 at 11:13 PM

      Clearly not the second coming of Nostradamus.

  15. sadnfl - May 7, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    So much for your prediction! HAHAHA

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