May 15, 2013
In pretty much a must-win game, Chicago put in its worst performance of the year, as well as one of the worst postseason games in the franchise’s history. Now they find themselves in a true must-win situation, facing elimination as they hit the road.
You can’t blame the Bulls too much, I guess, considering the number of injuries they are fighting through and that their third string point guard, who is known only for scoring, wouldn’t have been able to hit a shot on a Fisher Price net (which is more his size, actually).
Nate Robinson went 0-12, the Bulls shot 25.7 percent as a team, scored just nine points in the third quarter and finished with 19 made field goals. Oh and the Bulls point guard combo of Nate and Marquis Teague scored more points for Miami (two) than for Chicago (zero).
Tom Thibodeau was so desperate for offense that he played Rip Hamilton 22 minutes. Rip hadn’t seen the floor since Game 6 of the Brooklyn series—a series in which he played ten total minutes. So Rip Hamilton played 22 minutes in a single game after playing ten minutes in a seven game series—a series which included a triple overtime game. And the worst part about it: Rip ended up as the Bulls’ third leading scorer.
“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Robinson said. “We’re professionals for a reason. We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure it out.” I’m not sure what the Bulls can draw up that will win them three straight games, unless Vladimir Radmanovic turns into a LeBron James clone. I’m not ruling that out, but I’ll say it’s unlikely.
The worst part about Chicago’s Game 4 no-show has to be the timing. Not just that it came at home in the postseason, but because this was a very winnable game. Miami didn’t play all that well, but then again, they didn’t have to. Dwyane Wade continued to struggle, finishing 3-10 from the field with six points. Chris Bosh shot well (7-10), but didn’t have a huge stat line (14 points, six rebounds). Norris Cole wasn’t hitting everything in sight (2-4, seven points). And Shane Battier could have been a member of the Bulls with his shooting (1-6).
“I don’t want them looking backwards,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t want them looking ahead. Just lock into the game that’s in front of us and concentrate on winning that game. We know we’re capable.”
The Bulls seemed capable to make this an entertaining series coming in and actually stole home court after Game 2, but they’ve lost the three games in this matchup by an average of 23.3 points per game. Too much might be piling up against the Bulls: too much talent on Miami, too many injuries for the Bulls.
Kirk Hinrich, still dealing with a calf bruise, and Luol Deng, recovering from an illness, are both expected to be out of Game 5.
It’s not just Game 5 the Bulls need to win now though. It’s Game 5, Game 6 and Game 7…against the defending champs. It’s been an uphill battle all year for Chicago, playing without their best player, working through a variety of injuries to a number of different players, but this particular hill is too big to climb.
There aren’t any moral victories in the playoffs, and if the Bulls continue to play like they did at home in Games 3 and 4, there won’t be any actual victories either.
If the Bulls do go down, they’ll go down fighting. But I tonight is their last game of the season, let’s just hope they shoot at least 30 percent.
May 13, 2013
On the defensive side of the ball, Chicago forced the Heat into exactly what they wanted: midrange jumpers in Game 3. The only problem is, Miami didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to miss those shots—or at least not all of Miami did.
Tom Thibodeau’s game plan worked against LeBron James, who went just 1-7 from midrange. That’s 14.3 percent. James didn’t have a great shooting night from the field, going 6-17, but hit all 11 of his foul shots and added eight boards and seven assists because he’s LeBron James. Stopping the MVP is where it starts, but that’s just part of the battle.
Miami’s third banana, Chris Bosh, hit 5-9 from midrange, and went 8-16 overall. As a team, the Heat hit 50.0 percent of their midrange jumpers (13-26), nearly 10 percent better than the league average from the area.
The unfortunate part of all this is that Chicago did a very good job of defending the rim. The Heat went just 11-21 (52.4 percent) at the basket, almost 20 percent lower than their season average. Miami led the league in field goal percentage at the rim, hitting 71.5 percent of their shots from in close, according to Hoopdata. LeBron shot a staggering 77.7 at the rim on the year, but the Bulls held him to 50 percent (3-6) last time out.
Unfortunately the Bulls couldn’t capitalize because of the midrange jumpers mentioned above and the fact that Stephen Curry is wearing a Norris Cole skin-suit for this series. Cole is a perfect 8-8 from three in the three games, and was 6-7 overall in Game 3, contributing 18 off the bench.
So what can the Bulls do next game? Well, maybe closing out on Cole at the three point line a little quicker would be a start. But other than that, they probably won’t change much. Chicago will always give their opponent the midrange jumper, because it is the least efficient shot in the game. They showed this in the Nets series, when Brook Lopez hit three consecutive 20-footers but there was absolutely no change in the way they defended it.
They don’t want to give up easy shots, which they didn’t in Game 3, although the Heat did get to the line 30 times. The Bulls also want to run you off the three-point line, which they didn’t do great, but when the defense is over-compensating for LeBron James some open threes will happen. Also when Nate Robinson is on the court or when Carlos Boozer has to guard a small forward.
The Bulls were right there, they just faded down the stretch, which isn’t surprising considering their short bench. Don’t expect them to have any more healthy bodies for Game 4.
According to K.C. Johnson, Luol Deng couldn’t practice on Saturday without throwing up, and on Sunday stopped after just warming up.
“I did some individual work (Saturday) and I started throwing up a little bit. I couldn’t finish the workout,” Deng said, probably with a trash can within reach. “I tried to practice with the team (Sunday) and the same thing. My body, my system is not reacting well to anything I’m doing right now.”
Of course to Thibs, this mean Deng is “day-to-day.” I can’t believe they haven’t shut down Deng when he is having trouble eating solid foods.
Kirk Hinrich didn’t do much either, riding a stationary bike and getting a few shots up and is officially the same status as Deng.
With that news, Chicago will have the same guys healthy to play as they look to even the series at two games apiece (presumably with more than just two and a half minutes of Nazr Mohammed).
Among the “things that went right” for the Bulls was Carlos Boozer finally getting word that the second round started. Boozington scored 21 points on 10-16 from the field after scoring just 14 points in the first two games combined. He was finally being somewhat aggressive, and it paid off when he did. Boozer went 4-4 at the rim and 7-8 overall in the paint. If that right there doesn’t jump out to Boozer to start getting to the hole, then I don’t know what will. And while he was 7-8 in the paint, he was just 3-7 from midrange. That’s not a terrible midrange percentage, but he often has a size advantage in this series and he needs to take advantage of that (without throwing elbows and getting called for charges).
Don’t wake the beast: The Miami Heat are 10-0 following losses in Game 1 of playoff series during the Big Three era. After dropping Game 1, they won four straight against Chicago in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, four straight against the Thunder in the 2012 Finals and have now won two straight against the Bulls in this series.
May 10, 2013
MVP (Most Valuable Player): In a game where LeBron James (6-17 field goals) didn’t shoot great and Dwyane Wade (ten points) disappeared for stretches, Chris Bosh picked up the slack. He had an enormous double-double with 20 points, 19 rebounds and added two blocks and four assists for good measure.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Carlos Boozer finally showed up and got himself out of the LVP spot. But it was quickly overtaken by Nazr Mohammed. And I mean quickly. Nazr got himself tossed after playing just 2:31 in Game 3. He committed an odd foul on LeBron at mid-court, and then when LeBron was about to get a technical, Nazr decided it would be best to push James down. Nazr got tossed and it did the Bulls no good.
X factor: Going into the series, the Bulls’ biggest worries were Bosh, James and Wade. Well, add Norris Cole to that list because he hasn’t missed from three yet. Cole is averaging 14.3 points per game and is shooting 80 percent from the field. When you’re over-compensating for LeBron James, someone is going to be open and it shouldn’t be Ray Allen. But if Cole keeps knocking down shots, the Bulls’ will have to make an adjustment.
X factor 2: The Bulls held Miami to 52.4 percent at the rim, which is 7.5 percent worse than the league average (and the Heat have a guy named LeBron James). That is a huge win for the Bulls and the focus of their defense. However, Miami hit 50 percent (13-26) from midrange, nearly 10 percent better than the league average. The Bulls executed their defensive scheme, but Miami, led by Bosh, was hitting the shots they were given. If a team is connecting at that rate from midrange, it’s going to be tough to beat them. When that team is the Miami Heat, it’s even tougher.
That was … better: Heading into the fourth quarter, the game was tied. But Chicago got outscored by ten in the final frame, which has to do, at least partly, with rest. Following Game 2’s blowout loss, the Bulls responded well and even though they didn’t get it done, they stuck right with the defending champs. If Miami hadn’t been hitting so well from midrange, the Bulls could be the ones with a 2-1 series lead.
May 8, 2013
No Deng, no Hinrich, no Rose? No problem. Against the Miami Heat, winners of 41 of their last 43 heading into Game 1? Seriously, no problem. The Bulls have Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli to fill in after all, that should be more than enough. And surprisingly to outsiders, it was enough as the Bulls took Game 1 and stole home-court advantage from the top seed.
It’s hard to say how many believers this team has outside of the actual members of the team.
The Bulls have every right to be content with where they are in the playoffs. No one expected them to win 45 games in the regular season with all their injuries. No one would have blamed them if they had failed to make the second round without their star player and with others facing injuries as well. This season is already considered a success—but the Bulls continue to fight and scrap because they aren’t content.
That starts with Tom Thibodeau, who, for good and bad, never thinks the Bulls are out of a game. And Joakim Noah has had the same mindset his entire career. Nate Robinson has it as well. He also believes every shot he takes is going in, which causes problems. Although, if there is one thing the Bulls have needed this year it is just that: a confident scorer.
Robinson came up huge in Game 1, scoring 29 points, including the final seven for the Bulls, to go with nine assists and ten stitches in his busted up lip. Robinson’s scoring, Jimmy Butler’s defense and Noah’s everything helped the Bulls pull off the huge upset because not a single one of those guys will back down.
And because of that mindset, Chicago has had recent success against the Heat. In Miami’s last 44 games this season they are 2-2 against Chicago, and 39-1 against other teams. At this point, the Heat know the Bulls go all out every time they meet, so there is no excuse for Miami to get caught off guard.
Even though the Bulls struck first, they still have a ton of work left—and history is not on their side. In each of the other two times the Heat fell behind 1-0 in a playoff series in the Bosh/James/Wade era, they went on to sweep the next four games. That includes last year’s NBA Finals, with the Thunder, as well as the last time the Bulls met the Heat, in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“We haven’t lost in a while, so it was very different to come in here and deal with a loss and to deal with it in the playoffs at home,” Wade said after a practice. “It was different from the standpoint of what we’ve been used to lately, but not anything different from what we’ve been used to as a team. We’ve been in tough moments. We’ve lost games before.”
Although the Heat have obviously lost before, the Bulls did some things that Miami hasn’t seen much this season. Chicago scored 35 points in the fourth quarter, the most the Heat have given up in a quarter all year. Miami also shot 39.7 percent from the field, it’s second-worst showing this season.
All eyes will be on Miami tonight, to see if they make the adjustments necessary to even the series, and that starts with hitting open shots. Shane Battier, normally reliable from deep went 2-7 from beyond the arc as Miami struggled overall, shooting 7-24 (29.2 percent) from long range.
Jimmy Butler will have the task of slowing LeBron James again after doing a solid job of it in Game 1. James wasn’t looking for his shot early, seeming content to be a facilitator (he finished with eight assists). That changed in the second half, as James finished with 24 points and got to the line nine times. Luol Deng has not yet made it to Miami, so he will join the team when they return to Chicago. Whether or not he will play in this series is still unknown.
Kirk Hinrich is a game-time decision for Wednesday with his calf injury, but is considered doubtful to play.
Playing without guys has become old hat for the Bulls. Let’s see how they do playing from in front.
May 6, 2013
The Bulls just won a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history, while many of their best players were either out or playing with injuries. And that, as it turns out, was the easy part, because now Chicago has to face heavy championship-favorite Miami.
The Bulls get a full day of rest before taking on Miami Monday night in AmericaAirlines Arena, where the Heat have lost just four games all season. One of those defeats came at the hands of the Bulls, in early January. You may have also heard about the other Bulls’ victory in the series this season, one that put an end to Miami’s 27-game winning streak.
Lots was made of the Bulls “hard fouls” and “tackling” in that streak busting victory, which will surely be a talking point and something to watch throughout the series. But let’s not forget the most flagrant foul of the entire series was when LeBron James lost his cool and elbowed Carlos Boozer. It’s no secret these teams don’t like each other, but to call anything the Bulls have done “cheap” is disingenuous. The Bulls aren’t going to give any easy baskets to their opponent. That goes for the Bobcats or the Heat.
But there’s no question there will be some flagrants in this series. Chicago won’t back down and neither will Miami, but there is a difference between hard fouls and cheap fouls.
If you thought the Bulls faced an uphill battle in Round 1, just wait for this series. You probably won’t be able to find an “expert” picking against the Heat—only Henry Abbot, Bradford Doolittle and Chris Palmer have the series going longer than five games on ESPN.com out of the 17 experts—and rightfully so. Miami cruised through the regular season, piling up a league-best 66 wins, while LeBron nearly unanimously won his fourth MVP award.
The Bulls split the season series with the Heat, with Miami’s victories both coming by double digits, including one game that the Bulls managed just 67 points. Both of Chicago’s victories were by single digits.
There is good news for the Bulls. First, it’s unlikely they can be any more injured than they were in Game 6 and 7 against the Nets. In all seriousness, Joakim Noah has looked better than he has in some time now the last two games out, making it appear like his plantar fasciitis has subsided somewhat. Jo had a huge Game 7, tallying 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks, leading the Bulls to victory.
He was healthy for only two of the four games against Miami, and the Bulls went 1-1 with their starting center. Jo averaged 12.0 points on 45.5 percent from the field, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
Miami will have seven days of rest since sweeping the Bucks in the first round. That gives Dwyane Wade some time to heal from a bruised right knee, but it also opens the possibility of the Heat being a little rusty in Game 1. Wade is expected to play Monday, but with the Bulls still in a rhythm after Game 7 Saturday night, a quick Chicago start could help them steal Game 1.
Luol Deng is officially out for tonight’s game and hasn’t yet joined the team in Miami. Deng received a blood patch to stop spinal fluid leakage after getting a spinal tap to test for meningitis. Deng does just about as good a job as anyone can in trying to slow down LeBron James, and without Lu, it shifts the Bulls defense a little out of whack. With Deng unable to go, Jimmy Butler will probably have to switch from Wade to LeBron. And then Marco Belinelli or Kirk Hinrich (if he is healthy), would have go up against Wade.
The Bulls are 8-8 against the Heat in the Big Three era, but just 1-4 in the playoffs.
April 14, 2013
Miami Heat Status Check:
Home Record: 35-4
Last 10 Games: 8-2
Streak: Won 5
Last game: 109-101 win over Boston
PPG: 102.9 (5th)
Opponents PPG: 95.1 (6th)
Offensive Rating: 112.4 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: 103.8 (9th)
Pace: 90.6 (23rd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .551 (1st)
Turnover Percentage: .137 (13th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .729 (24th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .224 (26th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .223 (6th)
Opp. eFG%: .487 (9th)
Opp. TO%: .149 (3rd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .201 (14th)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (26.8)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Miami Injury Report:
Shane Battier: missed Friday’s game (rest)
Udonis Haslem: missed Friday’s game (ankle)
Following a predictable, but still bad, loss the Bulls dropped to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game back of the Hawks. Chicago and Atlanta are tied in the loss column, while Atlanta has one more win than the Bulls. Chicago does own the tiebreaker, so if they win out, they would get the fifth spot in the playoffs. If the Bulls finish fifth, they would play the Nets in round one. If they finish sixth they would play the Pacers. The real difference is in round two, where everyone would like to avoid the Heat. The winner of the fourth seed vs. fifth seed series will advance to take on Miami. So falling to the sixth spot wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing.
But the Bulls aren’t losing these games to the Raptors on purpose—although that would help me sleep at night. Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Bulls have three games left, and positioning itself to avoid Miami would be weird, considering the Bulls are far from a guarantee to get past the first round.
Chicago has the chance to once against defeat that possible second round juggernaut when they meet the Heat. The last time these two squads met, the Bulls shocked everybody but themselves when they snapped Miami’s 27-game win streak in front of a very excited United Center crowd. If I had to guess, LeBron and company would like to squash the Bulls in this game and get a little bit of payback for the March 27 loss. But the Heat already have the best record in the league locked up, so maybe Chicago will luck out a little bit. Miami’s goal is to repeat and win a championship. Does beating the Bulls in a late regular season really help them get to that goal?
Everybody played for the Heat in its last contest, a 109-101 win over Boston; although the big three didn’t play full minutes. LeBron James (20 points, 9 assists) recorded 29 minutes, Chris Bosh (17 points, 7 rebounds) logged 25 minutes and Dwyane Wade (11 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) totaled 34 minutes.
With what happened to Kobe Bryant, the Heat may rethink playing their top guys. Bryant and the Lakers were fighting for a playoff spot, and Kobe probably wouldn’t have gone out even if Mike D’Antoni tried. But Miami isn’t fighting for anything.
In all honesty, who knows which team the Bulls will play better against. As Chicago has displayed perfectly just this last week, they play down to lesser opponents and get up for better challenges. Two losses to the Raptors and a win over the streaking Knicks is the best summary of this Bulls’ season, and it happened in five days. So would the Bulls come out and play a stinker if they knew the big three were sitting out?
The thing that should be most important with three games left in the season is health. The Bulls already have a ton of guys that are injured, and those that are healthy are playing lots of minutes. Tired legs played a factor in the Raptors game, and the game against Miami is the first of a back-to-back that ends in Orlando. Five seed or six seed, if the Bulls can get through the final bit of the season without anyone else getting injured, and then have some of those players that are already injured return in the playoffs, they have a chance in round one.
March 27, 2013
Miami Heat Status Check:
Road Record: 24-11
Last 10 Games: 10-0
Streak: Won 27
Last game: 108-94 win over Orlando
PPG: 103.5 (5th)
Opponents PPG: 95.5 (7th)
Offensive Rating: 112.7 (1st)
Defensive Rating: 104.0 (9th)
Pace: 90.8 (22nd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .549 (1st)
Turnover Percentage: .133 (8th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .728 (21st)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .223 (26th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .226 (5th)
Opp. eFG%: .487 (9th)
Opp. TO%: .148 (3rd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .204 (16th)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (26.7)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Miami Injury Report:
Dwyane Wade: questionable (sore knee)
Less than a year ago it was conceivable that the Bulls could beat the Heat in a playoff series. Chicago was the top seed in the Eastern Conference, despite a bunch of injured guys, with Miami in second. I wouldn’t have put money on the Bulls taking down Miami in a seven game battle, but I would have bet anything that it would be competitive and that Chicago would push the Heat to the brink.
Now, less than 12 months later, things have changed. Derrick Rose is still out, the Bulls have an almost entirely new bench and the Heat are playing out of their minds. Right now, the gap between the two teams is wider than LeBron’s headband.
Miami comes in on an absurd 27-game winning streak, the second longest in NBA history and six games away from tying the Lakers’ all-time mark of 33. The Bulls are on a two-game winning streak—just the second times they’ve won back-to-back games since the beginning of February.
While Miami’s superstar is playing at an all-time high and cruising to what should be another MVP, the Bulls are still awaiting the return of theirs.
All of this sounds like doom and gloom, but it may actually work out well for the Bulls. Miami has a tendency to come out of the gates slow. They’ve trailed four of their last last five opponents by double-digits and were tied with Orlando late in the third quarter.
The Bulls are a better team than any of those, and although they’ve blown leads of their own this season, if they can get on top of Miami their defense could carry them to a streak-ending victory.
All these things that are working against the Bulls—no Rose, the injuries—may end up working for them. This is Chicago’s championship. They always get up to play the Heat, whether it’s the regular season or playoffs. This hasn’t been “just another game” since Miami signed James, Wade and Bosh, even if the Bulls say it is. A game of this magnitude means more, and rightfully so.
But this meaning is more one-sided than it has ever been. When Rose was healthy, the Bulls were a threat to Miami. That meant the Heat wanted to crush the Bulls the same way the Bulls wanted to crush the Heat. That doesn’t seem to be the case now. Sans Rose, Chicago is just another stepping stone on the way to a spot in the Finals for Miami.
“We know that Chicago is going to be a tough game for us, and playing in that building,” LeBron James said. “We want to come out with our game plan … and give ourselves a chance to win.” Well the Bulls are just 19-16 in the United Center, and when the two teams met there in February, Chicago managed to score just 67 in a 19-point loss.
The Bulls shot 37.3 percent in that contest, compared to 50.7 for the Heat. Noah nearly had a triple-double, posting eleven points, eight rebounds and eight assists. But with the poor shooting and Chicago’s 27 turnovers, it wasn’t really close. That was Miami’s ninth straight win, which seems like forever ago.
The underdogs did get the better of the Heat when they met in Miami though, where the Bulls dominated the glass. Chicago grabbed 19 offensive rebounds to the Heat’s four and won the overall rebounding battle 48-28. Miami shot slightly better and had fewer turnovers, but that rebounding margin put the Bulls over the top, helping Chicago grab a 20-7 advantage in second chance points. An effort like that on the boards is how they are going to win this game. They scored just eleven second chance points when the two teams met in the United Center.
Chicago has enough trouble scoring, when going up against a good defense like Miami, the Bulls will need all the second chance points they can get.
The Bulls have against the Heat won without Rose before, this year and last year. But playing without Marco Belinelli (abdomen) and Noah (foot) would be an enormous hill to climb. With that said, John Lucas III scored 24 points in a game against Miami last season, leading the Bulls to a victory. So no matter what goes down tonight, crazier things have happened.
February 21, 2013
Miami Heat Status Check:
Road Record: 14-11
Last 10 Games: 9-1
Streak: Won 8
Last game: 103-90 win over Atlanta
PPG: 103.2 (5th)
Opponents PPG: 96.7 (12th)
Offensive Rating: 12.3 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: 105.2 (12th)
Pace: 90.8 (21st)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .545 (1st)
Turnover Percentage: .131 (6th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .734 (17th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .226 (27th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .222 (8th)
Opp. eFG%: .490 (13th)
Opp. TO%: .145 (7th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .216 (23rd)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (27.2)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Miami Injury Report:
Chris Andersen: left Wednesday’s game (sprained foot)
Mike Miller: missed Wednesday’s game (flu-like symptoms)
After staying quiet through the trade deadline, Chicago moves ahead with the team they put together this summer, and remain eager for Derrick Rose’s return. That won’t be for a while, maybe not even this season, but playing with Rose is nothing new for Chicago. The Bulls looked good in their first game after the All-Star break, taking care of the Hornets, but now they get a real test: the hottest team in the league with the hottest player.
Miami comes into the game having won eight straight as LeBron James has found a new level of dominance. Over his last ten games, of which the Heat are 9-1, LeBron is averaging 30.0 points, on 64.5 percent shooting from the field and 51.4 percent from deep. He’s also adding 7.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.9 steals over that stretch.
On their eight game win streak, Miami is averaging 107.6 points per contest. The last time the Bulls scored 107 points in a game was a mid-January overtime win over the Raptors. Getting into a shoot-out with the Heat wouldn’t work for almost any team, but the Bulls know they need to win these games on the defensive end.
The Bulls get up for games against the Heat. They showed it last year in games that Rose missed with minor injuries and showed it once again when they met Miami in January. The Bulls have taken six of the last eight regular season games against Miami, holding the Heat to 91.0 points per contest.
Chicago gave up just 89 points to Miami in their first meeting this season, shutting down everybody except James (30 points) and Dwyane Wade (22 points). LeBron got to the line 16 times in that contest, hitting 13 of those freebies.
The clear match-up to watch is whoever is guarding LeBron at the moment. It will be Luol Deng for most of the game, and Jimmy Butler may get some time on him as well.
There is some good news for the Bulls. First of all, they get Miami on the road, where the Heat are just 14-11 on the year (compared to 23-3 at home). The second is that Miami is playing on the second night of a back-to-back. It’s not a big advantage, as Miami is 6-1 playing on no rest, but a somewhat tired Heat team is better than a rested one.
LeBron played 40 minutes last night in the win over Atlanta, scoring 24 points to go with eleven assists and four steals. That was his lowest output of the month and just the second time he has scored fewer than 30 points in February. Wade added 20 points in 35 minutes of action and Shane Battier and Ray Allen combined for 32 off the bench. Chris Bosh struggled, going just 2-10 from the floor in his first game since starting the All-Star game.
Kirk Hinrich is once again a game-time decision because of his elbow injury. Hinrich went 2-7 from the field for five points, but dished ten assists as the offense looked much better with him leading it. Nate Robinson came off the bench to score 13 points in the first match-up with Miami. Hinrich went 3-8 for ten points in that game.
January 5, 2013
Miami Heat Status Check:
Home Record: 15-2
Last 10 Games: 8-2
Streak: Won 2
Last game: 119-109 OT win over Mavericks
PPG: 103.6 (4th)
Opponents PPG: 98.6 (19th)
Offensive Rating: 111.3 (3rd)
Defensive Rating: 106.0 (18th)
Pace: 92.1 (13th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .547 (1st)
Turnover Percentage: .136 (8th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .733 (16th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .213 (29th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .223 (7th)
Opp. eFG%: .492 (17th)
Opp. TO%: .139 (10th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .206 (15th)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (26.5)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Heat Injury Report:
LeBron James: probable (knee)
Neither the Heat nor the Bulls have been playing their best basketball lately. The Bulls because they are missing Derrick Rose and apparently decided to take off the last week and a half of 2012 and the Heat because they know they can turn it on whenever they feel like.
That’s why the Bulls have a chance to beat Miami. Chicago beat the Heat last year behind 24 points from John Lucas III in one match-up. So whatever happens tonight, crazier things happened last season.
If the Bulls want to win they’re going to have to try and slow down the best basketball player in the world, who is also the most consistent scorer right now. LeBron James has scored 20 or more points in all 30 of his games this season. He is the first player to do that in more than 40 years (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1970-71 when he was still Lew Alcindor). Overall, he’s on a streak of 51 straight games hitting the 20 point mark that includes last season’s championship run in the playoffs.
But Miami isn’t at their peak right now. In their last four games, they are 2-2, with losses to Detroit and Milwaukee and overtime wins against Orlando and Dallas. The Heat are beatable when they are cruising through the regular season waiting to turn it on.
James was just one assist shy of a triple-double in Miami’s overtime win over the Mavericks. He finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Dwyane Wade recorded 27 points and ten rebounds, while Bosh scored 17.
The Heat only turned the ball over ten times—James and Udonis Haslem combined for seven turnovers between them—and Dallas scored just 13 points off of them. Miami got 23 points off 14 Maverick turnovers.
This will be the first of four times this year the Bulls and Heat meet. Chicago went 2-2 against Miami last season. They were without Rose for two games, one being a four-point win, the other an eleven-point loss. They won another game which Rose was there physically, but not statistically. The point guard went a dismal 1-13 from the floor and recorded a negative-27 plus/minus. The bench stepped up massively in that game, helping Chicago pull out an overtime win. Rose’s best performance, a 34 point, six assist, six rebound game, ended as a four-point Chicago loss.
What that means is that the Bulls can beat the Heat without Rose. They didn’t depend on Rose for wins, getting a win without him and one when he was awful. And they lost in his best game. That should give them some confidence going into tonight.
That was last year though, and the Bulls had a much different bench at that point, that was consistently good and a lot better than Miami’s reserves, which were an after though. Now the Heat have Ray Allen coming off their bench. The former Celtic is averaging 11.6 points per game and hitting 45.6 percent of his threes. He’s daring people to double one of the Big Three.
The Bulls also need to rebound if they want to win this game, something they haven’t been doing well for a few games. But Miami is 29th in offensive rebounding percentage and middle of the pack (16th) in defensive rebounding percentage. If the Bulls can get second chance points and defend their glass, they will have a chance to knock off the Heat.
A big boost to their rebounding will be if Joakim Noah can play. Jo had no energy in the Bulls loss to the Bobcats, finishing with just two points and four rebounds, before sitting out the first game of 2013 with the flu. Jo has said he will play tonight. A game against the Heat isn’t the type of game Noah would want to miss. The Bulls could use Noah’s defense as well, as the Heat are the best in the league when it comes to effective field goal percentage (.547) and are third in offensive rating (111.3)
But if he can’t go, Taj Gibson filled in his role well, recording a season-high 21 points to go with eleven rebounds in the two-point win over the Magic. Carlos Boozer also stepped up, scoring 31 points, a season-high as well, on 13-22 shooting and adding eleven boards. Luol Deng pitched in 23, but that’s where the good news ends. The rest of the team scored just 21 points and shot 7-27 or 25.9 percent.
Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli are all going to have to pitch in double digit points if the Bulls are going to have a solid chance to win this game. Oh yeah, and they’ll need to try and slow down LeBron James. That’s the tough one.
July 9, 2010
The LeDecision has been LeMade: LeBron James will join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. The three guys who were probably (in some order or another) Chicago’s Plans A, B and C have joined forces to become The Super Friends of South Beach.
But you know what? It could be worse. A lot worse actually.
The New Jersey Nets won only 12 games last year, missed out on John Wall, and haven’t made a major acquisition this summer. The Nets going to win more than 12 games next season, but not enough to escape another NBA Draft lottery.
The New York Knicks — the first team to start clearing cap room, thereby kicking off LeBronmania — managed to overpay for Amar’e Stoudemire and trade for Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike. And that’s it so far. During the 2009-10 campaign, the Knicks set a franchise record with their ninth straight losing season. A tenth consecutive losing season isn’t out of the question.
The Los Angeles Clippers are, well, they’re still the Clippers.
And I believe Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert’s open letter to Cavs fansprovides some rather painful (if somewhat classless) insight into how Clevelanders are feeling today. After all, their hero is now fulfilling his dreams while crushing theirs.
So sure, the Heat hit the Jackpot at the expense of several teams, the Bulls included. But while the Cavaliers, Clippers, Knicks and Nets will probably be among the worst teams the in NBA, the Bulls should be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
Think about it. The other teams — including the Heat, by the way — basically gutted their rosters and adopted a “Lose Today To Win Tomorrow” mentality for the mere hopeof signing either LeBron or one or two other headliners. That plan was an epic success for the Heat. Not so much for the other squads.
The Bulls, on the other hand, managed to keep a solid core of players in tact while clearing enough space to be in the hunt for a superduperstar. So even though it kind of stings to have missed out on the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes…
…the Bulls are okay.
They still have an All-Star point guard in Derrick Rose. They managed to sign a former All-Star and proven 20-10 guy in Carlos Boozer without giving up a max deal. They have two players (Joakim Noah and Luol Deng) who can play reasonably close to an All-Star level (and Noah could go over the top this season). They have a young up-and-coming big man in Taj Gibson. And they still have roughly 18 million in cap space to spackle over the rest of their holes (namely at shooting guard and in the three-point shooting department).
Several teams went all in and came away with nothing or next to nothing. The Bulls somehow managed to go all in while keeping a big pile of chips stashed behind their backs. That’s kind of cool, isn’t it?
As it stands, the Bulls probably won’t be better than the Celtics, Heat or Magic. But they could be a solid fourth seed in their conference. It may feel like a booby prize to some people…but I bet fans in Cleveland, New Jersey and New York would swap places with Chicago fans in a heartbeat.
Let’s go ahead and forget all the LeBron/Wade/Bosh stuff and look forward to seeing how management fills the rest of the team’s needs. My hope was that the Bulls would get Mike Miller, but it looks like he’s going to Miami too (it figures). So who’s next on the short list?
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Sources said the Bulls also have targeted Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans and Roger Mason. Wesley Matthews, J.J. Redick and Anthony Morrow are restricted free agents, though the Bulls do have enough money for significant offers to give their current teams pause should they choose that route. Another intriguing possibility for backcourt depth is Peoria native Shaun Livingston.”
As they say on TV, stay tuned.