May 8, 2013
MVP (Most Valuable Player): LeBron James pretty efficiently sliced the Bulls defense, scoring 19 points on 7-12 from the field, and also posted five rebounds and nine assists. He did this all in 32 minutes. Unlike in Game 1 where LeBron was content to facilitate early, the MVP was attacking from the start Wednesday night. James was 6-6 for 12 points in the first quarter, with two assists and two steals.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Pick your favorite (or least favorite) Chicago player. Carlos Boozer was 3-9 and refused to drive to the basket even though his jumper was off and he had Shane Battier guarding him for stretches. Non-savior Nate Robinson showed up, as he went 3-10 and turned the ball over four times. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both lost their cool and got tossed in the fourth, long after the game was lost. Marco Belinelli shot 4-13 as no Bull scored more than 13 points.
X factor: The Bulls pride themselves on defending the paint and the three-point line. Tonight they did neither.Miami scored 56 points in the paint, compared to just 18 for the Bulls. As a matter of fact, the Heat had 16 points in the paint in the third quarter, nearly topping Chicago’s effort for the game in 12 minutes. And after missing lots of open shots in Game 1, Miami shook off the rust. They hit 9-18 from deep, led by Norris Cole (4-4).
That was … terrible: It was the Heat’s largest margin of victory in a playoff game, as well as the Bulls’ largest margin of defeat. Chicago shot 35.5 percent, while Miami hit at a 60.0 percent clip. Miami had 29 assists, the Bulls had 17.Every stat was in favor of the Heat except “number of players tossed.” With all that said, this only counts as one loss and the series is even going back to Chicago. The Bulls have a lot of adjustments to make, but that’s what Tom Thibodeau does.
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.