Heat-Bulls Preview

Miami Heat Status Check:
Record: 44-17
Division: 9-3
Conference: 34-10
Home Record: 26-4
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Streak: Won 4
Last game: 96-72 win over Toronto
PPG: 100.0 (4th)
Opponents PPG: 93.1 (6th)
Offensive Rating: 108.1 (5th)
Defensive Rating: 100.6 (4th)
Pace: 91.3 (15th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .510 (4th)
Turnover Percentage: .141  (18th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .733 (12th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .267 (19th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .241 (4th)
Opp. eFG%: .480 (10th)
Opp. TO%: .161 (2nd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .203 (13th)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (27.1)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Miami Injury Report:
Ronny Turiaf: missed Wednesday’s game against Toronto (strained left hamstring)

Overview:
After three games that should have been a cake-walk, and only one that was, the Bulls have to bring their A-game to Miami to attempt to sure up the number one seed in the playoffs.

The home team has won all three games in this series so far this season. Miami is 26-4 in the AmericaAirlines Arena and they had won 17 straight home games before losing to Memphis on April 6. Since that loss to the Grizz, Miami is 3-1 (losing to Boston, while beating Toronto, Charlotte and Detroit). So even though the Bulls are coming off some games against lesser opponents, the Heat are in a similar spot.

If the Bulls win tonight, they lock up the number one seed in the East. If they lose, it gets more interesting. The Bulls are up two in the loss column (15 to 17), so if the Bulls don’t lose two games the rest of the way, they’ll take the top seed.

The Heat are always a tough game for the Bulls, and it gets even harder when the Bulls are missing their two All-Stars. Derrick Rose and Luol Deng will once again be game-time decisions. Rose has missed 25 games this season, including the last two games. The Bulls have already beaten Miami twice without Rose (once Rose didn’t actually play, and the other time he didn’t play well, scoring just two points).

Deng was more positive about potentially playing tonight, and said he “should be able to go.”

Deng is an important part of this match up. His defense on LeBron will be a key to this game and the possible playoff series. LeBron is averaging 33.3 points against Chicago this season, so Deng hasn’t really been slowing him down much, but every little bit helps.

Last Thursday when these two teams met, Kyle Korver (17 points, 5-6 from three) and C.J. Watson (16 points, nine assists) stepped up enormously, in Derrick’s relative absence. Korver has played well against Miami all season, averaging 12.7 points on 62.5 percent shooting from deep, in just over 18 minutes. Korver’s scoring off the bench provides a spark the Bulls really need. If he doesn’t shoot well tonight, the Bulls task gets a lot harder.

As always though, Chicago’s most important asset is its defense. The Bulls moved to first in defensive rating, after allowing just 68 points to the Bobcats. Chicago’s defensive rating is 98.6, while Miami is in fourth place, with a 100.6 rating.

Miami is coming off a 24-point victory over the Raptors. The Heat were up just two at half-time, but allowed only 23 points in the entire second half to run away with it. Only one-third of the big three participated, with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh watching from the sideline. But LeBron was enough, scoring 28 points on 12-15 shooting.

Wade and Bosh are expected to play tonight.

The Bulls probably need home-court in the playoffs a little more than Miami, because the Bulls lost in the playoffs last season and the Heat will have a little more confidence in a seven game series. Suring up the home-court tonight would leave the Bulls will three games to test things out. If they lose, it puts a lot more pressure on Chicago at the end of the season.

Rip shooting well: Over his last three games, Rip is shooting 53.3 percent from the field, and is averaging 19.0 points per contest. His only single digit output in his last five games came against Miami last Thursday, in which he scored seven points (3-6 shooting).

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