Game 1: Chicago won 99-96 (Derrick Rose: 34 points, 8 assists; Dwayne Wade: 33 points, 6 rebounds)
Game 2: Chicago won 93-89 (Dwayne Wade: 34 points, 8 rebounds; Luol Deng: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists)
Game 3: Chicago won 87-86 (LeBron James: 26 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists; Derrick Rose: 27 points, 5 assists)
Bulls-Heat. It all comes full circle doesn’t it? The Heat, the team many people believed would be the number one seed, faces off against Chicago, the surprise number one seed. Chicago went after the three stars leading Miami into this series. They missed out, but snagged some nice consolation prizes.
The biggest question is which Chicago Bulls will show up? Did it take the Bulls ten postseason games, or more exactly, 39 quarters, to get back to what they were doing in the regular season, or are they going to start this series like the other two? Chicago is coming into this series playing their best ball of the post season.
There was a lot of talk about Rose shooting too much. And 23.3 shots per game may seem like too much, but Chicago needed him to take those shots. If you watched game six, Rose was dishing extremely well, especially to Carlos Boozer (and Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter of game five). Derrick only took 14 shots, because they didn’t need his scoring as much (although he still scored 19 points), Rose knows what to do. He can be a passing point guard if other guys are hitting shots, or he can take over. It’s really the best of both worlds.
Chicago was 3-0 against Miami in the regular season, but this is a new Miami team. They seem to have everything figured out during this postseason. Boston was 3-0 against Miami in the regular and then got romped in the playoffs.
That’s not to say that Boston and Chicago are the same, because Chicago is much younger and the Bulls point guard isn’t playing with one arm (knock on wood that doesn’t happen). Chicago also has home court advantage, for what that is worth, and the Bulls big offseason acquisition will actually contribute on the court and not just on the dinner bill.
The Bulls won the regular season games, but LeBron didn’t play in the first game (neither did Noah) and Chris Bosh went 1-18 in the second match-up. As much as everyone would like to see that again, it probably won’t happen. And Chicago won by an average of less than three points. That’s one possession over the course of the game that meant the difference between winning and losing.
And although Rose played well against Miami, averaging 29.0 points on 44.6 percent shooting, while adding 6.3 assists, he recorded a plus/minus of -3 for the entire series. This again shows how important the bench is, especially compared to Miami’s lack of bench players.
Overall the player match-ups will be key. And none will be bigger than Luol Deng against LeBron James. The two played 75 minutes against each other during the regular season. Deng’s numbers aren’t bad. He averaged 16.8 points on 57 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists with LeBron on the court. With LeBron off (in 47 minutes) Deng averaged 11.5 points on 33 percent, 6.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
LeBron on the other hand averaged 25.4 points (57 percent shooting) per 36 minutes, to go with 7.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists when Luol Deng is on the court. His season stats per 36 minutes were 24.8 on 51 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
Per 36 minutes, with Keith Bogans on the court, Dwayne Wade averaged just 19.8 points and his plus/minus is -13.2. Does that mean more Bogans!? Bogans is shooting 48.7 percent from three in the post season. In the Atlanta series he shot 10-21. Bogans shot just 38 percent from behind the arc during the regular season.
The Heat will definitely have a strategy in place to slow Derrick Rose, but what’s more important will be Chicago’s defense. The Bulls offense does not always show up, but the defense does, and Chicago will need it more to stop the two superstars and whatever you want to call Chris Bosh.
Another key is rebounding, which Chicago has been consistently good at. During the regular season, the Bulls out-rebounded Miami 43.7 to 33.0. The Bulls also won the offensive rebound battle 11.0 to 6.7. Chicago will need all the easy buckets they can get against a good defensive team.
“I think a lot of people are looking forward to this series,” LeBron James said. “It’s going to be two great defensive teams [that] take pride defensively, [teams that] get more out of getting stops than they do in scoring…May the best man win.” Team, LeBron…teams play basketball. Maybe that team thing could be key.
Via ESPN Stats and Information: Six previous times in NBA history has an MVP with no other All-Stars on his team faced off against a team with 3+ All-Stars in that season’s playoffs. The team with the multiple All-Stars won 5 of those 6 series, with Hakeem Olajuwon being the only MVP to win, leading the Rockets to a victory over a Knicks team featuring All-Stars Patrick Ewing, John Starks, and Charles Oakley in the 1994 NBA Finals.
Chicago isn’t exactly one guy and 4 scrubs, just ask Carlos Boozer. “It hasn’t been a one-man show, but our one man is pretty good.”
About the Author:
Braedan Ritter was born and raised in Pennsylvania but was swayed by gifts from his aunt to follow the Chicago sports teams. It didn’t hurt that the Bulls had a guy named Michael Jordan playing for them, and the Sixers had…Derrick Coleman. Braedan has stuck with Chicago through thick and thin, and really thin (see: Chicago Cubs). And speaking of Coleman, Braedan is currently a student at Syracuse University.