Bulls-Heat Preview

Miami Heat Status Check:
Record: 40-16
Division: 8-3
Conference: 30-9
Road Record: 16-12
Last 10 Games: 5-5
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 115-107 loss to Boston
PPG: 100.3 (4th)
Opponents PPG: 93.6 (8th)
Offensive Rating: 108.1 (5th)
Defensive Rating: 100.9 (5th)
Pace: 91.6 (13th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .510 (4th)
Turnover Percentage: .141 (18th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .731 (16th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .266 (19th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .246 (4th)
Opp. eFG%: .479 (10th)
Opp. TO%: .161 (2nd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .208 (16th)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (26.9)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Miami Injury Report:
None

Overview:
Going into one of the biggest games of the season against Miami, the Bulls are looking ready. Their last game exemplified how Chicago has been winning all season without Rose—it was a total team effort and guys stepped up.

Rip Hamilton finally looks alive, going for 20 points (18 in the third quarter), four rebounds and five assists. Kyle Korver is coming off his best game of the season and arguably his best game as a Bull (in my opinion, because of his hustle plays). Korver scored 14 points (3-5 from deep) grabbed seven rebounds, blocked three shots and was diving all over the place.  And the Bulls have a three game lead over Miami for first place in the East.

The Bulls once again won without Derrick Rose—this times getting revenge on the Knicks—improving to 16-7 without their point guard. Rose will be a game-time decision tonight. I’m sure he wants to go, and if he’s ready, I think he should play. The Bulls starters (Rip, Rose, Deng, Noah, Boozer) need to get some run together before the playoffs.

But even if Rose doesn’t go, it’s not a definite loss for the Bulls. Chicago beat Miami without Rose the last time these two squads met, and actually lost when they had Rose in late January. Both Chicago and Miami won at home.

John Lucas III went off against Miami in the United Center, having one of those games that make me feel bad for every joke I ever made about him (but then he does something John Lucas-y and it’s easy to joke again). Lucas led the Bulls in scoring, dropping 24 points off the bench, on 9-12 shooting (3-5 from deep). All five of Chicago’s bench players recorded positive plus/minuses. Only one starter (C.J. Watson, +3) did that.

LeBron James has been scoring at will on Chicago this year. LeBron scored 35 points in each game. He’s also averaging 8.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 4.0 turnovers.

Dwyane Wade is averaging 25.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists against the Bulls this year, while Chris Bosh is recording 18.0 and 7.5.

Miami is just 5-5 over their last ten, and coming off a loss to Boston (who has owned Miami this year as of late). James did his part, scoring 36 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing seven assists. But the Heat allowed Boston to shoot 60.6 percent from the field and record a 126.4 offensive rating. Boston did their damage from the mid-range, shooting 24-39 from 10-23 feet and 9-14 from deep.

Kevin Garnett went 11-14 from the field, for 24 points and also finished with nine rebounds. Rajon Rondo had 18 points and 15 assists.

Miami is going to want this one, coming off their worst defensive performance since LeBron and Bosh took their talents to South Beach. And Miami obviously wants home-court advantage in the playoffs. The two teams will meet again in one week in Miami.

If Chicago gets the first seed in the playoffs and makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ll have the home court advantage, just like last year. Winning at home against the Heat will help build confidence for the Bulls when it comes playoff time. Although that didn’t help last season as the Bulls swept Miami in the regular season games, including two games in Chicago, before getting beat 4-1 in the playoffs.

As far as remaining schedules go, Chicago has the fifth-easiest schedule (opponents average win percentage of .459), while Miami has the second-easiest (.448), according to ESPN Stats and Information.

This is the match-up most people want in the Eastern Conference Finals. Chicago can get past the Heat in the playoffs, and can take a big step in the right direction by beating Miami tonight. The Bulls are 4-1 in their last five regular season games against Miami. Will they continue their winning ways tonight?

ESPN Stats and Information:  This marks a matchup of the teams with the highest points differential in the NBA this season. The Bulls lead the NBA with a +7.9 and the Heat are second with a +6.7.Despite each teams’ large points differential, each of the last five meetings have been decided by four points or less.” –ESPN Stats and Information

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