Bulls-Heat Preview

Miami Heat Status Check:
Record: 31-10
Division: 7-3
Conference: 24-5
Road Record: 13-8
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 104-98 loss to Orlando
PPG: 102.5 (2nd)
Opponents PPG: 94.0 (11th)
Offensive Rating: 109.6 (1st)
Defensive Rating: 100.4 (6th)
Pace: 91.9 (11th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .521 (1st)
Turnover Percentage: .144 (21st)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .733 (16th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .268 (17th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .247 (3rd)
Opp. eFG%: .474 (10th)
Opp. TO%: .158 (3rd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .209 (13th)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (27.5)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Miami Injury Report:
Mike Miller: out at least one week (sprained left ankle)

The Bulls won another hard-fought battle on Monday, this time against the Knicks, but they’ll have to be much sharper if they want to beat the Heat tonight.

It’s easy to forget that actual basketball has to be played, in between Dwight Howard’s ever-changing ideas on where he wants to play. And Carmelo Anthony is not one to be outdone, so he jumped in on the “trade me” action too. Or maybe he didn’t. Either way, he isn’t helping the Knicks much, and his coach is gone.

But beyond all that off the court stuff, the top two teams in the East will face off tonight. And although the Bulls are in first place, ahead of Miami, Tom Thibodeau thinks Miami is the team to beat in the East.

“We’re chasing them,” he said. “They’re the Eastern Conference champions from last year. We have to come out and play hard.”

Against Carmelo’s Knicks (or perhaps the team is Lin’s? All we know is it’s definitely not D’Antoni’s), the Bulls played hard and pulled another tough victory out. Rose had a nice stat line (32 points, six rebounds, seven assists), but wasn’t great. He had four turnovers and shot 12-29 from the field.

Taj Gibson was the one guy who really stood out, as he dominated the boards, grabbing eight offensive rebounds. He did so much work on the glass he was hired to clean skyscraper’s windows during the offseason.

As a team, the Bulls out-rebounded the Knicks by 13 on the offensive glass, and 18 overall.

Miami lost to the red hot Orlando Magic last night in overtime (Orlando beat Chicago, Indiana and Miami in the past five days).

Dwight Howard, who was still on the Magic when I wrote this, helped Orlando climb out of a 14 point deficit, behind his 24 points and 25 rebounds.

Dwyane Wade scored 28 points, to go with six rebounds and five assists, LeBron James added 19 points, eleven rebounds and eight assists, and Chris Bosh pitched in 23 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t enough.

The Heat were outrebounded by ten, and Orlando shot 26 more free throws (the Magic only made eleven more, but that was enough).

The Heat’s big three played some big minutes last night: Bosh (44), James (42) and Wade (38) all put in a lot of time. Which may not bode well for Miami.

The Heat are 7-5 on the second night of a back-to-back. They are 23-5 in the rest of their games. Miami is also just 13-8 on the road this season.

Currently Miami is 2 ½ games back of Chicago for the top seed in the East, but they won the first and only time these two teams met this season in late January. Miami held on to win that game 97-93.

The game was tainted by missed free throws. First it was Rose, missing two free throws when the Bulls were down one. Then it was LeBron’s turn. He missed both of his free throws (LeBron led all scorers with 35 points) when Miami was still up one. Rose then missed a shot to tie up the game.

And this also happened in that game…good times.

Luol Deng and C.J. Watson were out for that game. Deng will play tonight, but Watson is still a gametime decision. Rip Hamilton is out (“nothing to see here, everything is as usual”), but the big news is that Derrick Rose may be out as well.

If Rose is out, there really isn’t much hope in Chicago winning this game. Rose scored 34 points, albeit inefficiently, going 11-28, in the first match-up against Miami. But without Rose, those 34 points have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is John Lucas…someone please hold me.

The Bulls did resign Mike James for the third time this season.  James has averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 assists so far this season with Chicago.

And really, it’s unclear why they’ve been letting James go all season. His per 36 minutes numbers are actually better than Lucas’. James is averaging 18.0 points, 10.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. Lucas averages 16.8 points, 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per 36. James’ is a much smaller sample size, but the numbers are in favor of James (and Lucas is a much smaller person, as LeBron showcased).

James is also shooting 57.1 percent from three and 42 percent from the field, while Lucas is 41.4 percent from three and 38.4 percent from the field.

But these numbers won’t matter much, unless it’s coming from the bench to give Derrick a rest, rather than starting in his place. The Heat have won six in a row over the Bulls as it is, and the Bulls chance decrease to slim-to-none without Rose.

Some statistics: Miami is first in both offensive rating (109.6) and effective field goal percentage (.521). The Bulls aren’t too far behind in offensive rating (108.9), but have a distance between them when it comes to eFG (.498).

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