Bulls-Heat Preview

Miami Heat Status Check:
Record: 63-16
Division: 14-1
Conference: 38-11
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.

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