Miami Heat Status Check:
Road Record: 21-10
Last 10 Games: 9-1
Streak: Won 3
Last game: 117-97 win over Kings
PPG: 102.2 (9th)
Opponents PPG: 94.1 (5th)
Offensive Rating: 111.3 (3rd)
Defensive Rating: 102.5 (4th)
Pace: 91.2 (20th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .520 (6th)
Turnover Percentage: .133 (16th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .748 (8th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .253 (21st)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .277 (3rd)
Opp. eFG%: .466 (2nd)
Opp. TO%: .126 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .224 (9th)
Leading scorer: LeBron James (26.2)
Stats from Basketball-Reference.com.
Heat Injury Report:
Udonis Haslem: left foot surgery (out indefinitely)
James Jones: hip (questionable for game against Chicago)
Mike Miller: head/ear infection (expected to miss game against Chicago)
The Bulls will play the Heat twice in eleven days, the first matchup being tonight at the United Center. It’s not just one win that’s on the line; this game could have huge playoff implications. If the Bulls get this victory, they clinch the tiebreaker over Miami. As the Bulls are currently three games back in the standings, that tiebreaker could very well decide playoff seeds.
Bulls’ fans won’t want to watch SportsCenter tomorrow if they repeat the defensive effort they had against Toronto. They allowed the Raptors to score 118 points, the most Chicago allowed since their fourth game of the year on November 4 against the Knicks (the Raptors shot 58.1% from the field). The Bulls also allowed dunk after dunk, during one of their worst defensive showings of the season. DeMar DeRozan had so many open lanes he must’ve thought he was still in the dunk contest. Carlos Boozer was one of the main culprits, but it was a poor defensive effort by the whole team. This showing comes in the same game that their defensive leader, Joakim Noah, returned to action.
Coach Thibodeau needs to have the Bulls ready to defend tonight. If not there will surely be some highlight dunks from LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (just kidding about the last guy).
Speaking of James, he missed the last matchup between these two squads, which the Bulls won back in January. The Bulls were missing their own integral piece for that game in Noah.
In their absence, the teams’ other stars stepped up. Wade dropped 33, going 4-7 from long range (he’s shooting 31.5% from three this year). Derrick Rose also picked up the slack, scoring a game high 34, including 11 in the fourth quarter to close out the win.
What should we expect from LeBron? In his career, James has averaged 27.7 points per game against Chicago, the same as his career average. Which apparently means you can expect James to be himself against the Bulls. In the words of Dennis Green (with poetic license), “He is who we thought he was.”
The Bulls out-rebounded the Heat 42-30 in that first game. And that could force a change at Miami’s center position. Brian Windhorst of the Heat Index said “the Bulls are also a physical team with their big men, not a strong suit of the Heat, who had been starting a couple of finesse big men, Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Erik Spoelstra changed his starting lineup on Tuesday, inserting the more rugged Erick Dampier at center, in part, because of this very reason.” Bosh and Big Z can be softer than Shaq’s midsection at times, so with Noah coming back, the rebounding battle will be very important. It is always good to have opponents change their line-ups to try and better match up with your line-up.
In the Heatles inaugural season, they really haven’t fared well against the East’s top teams, though. They are 0-1 against Chicago, 0-3 against Boston and 2-1 against Orlando (They’re 1-1 against Atlanta, if you count them as a true contender in the East). And if you spread that to the West as well, the Heat are just 1-5 against Boston, Dallas and the Lakers (they have not played the Spurs yet). The Bulls are 4-3 against those same teams , 5-4 if you include the Spurs.
The Heat have struggled against the league’s best but they are coming in to this game smoking hot (get it?). They have won 11 of their last 12 games, losing only to Boston in that stretch. And Chicago may be gassed.
The Bulls’s four true starters (not counting Bogans because he doesn’t play many minutes) logged 138 minutes last night. That’s a lot of minutes to play the night before you face the team tied for the East’s best record. The Bulls have played well on the second night of back-to-backs though, going 8-4. When they lost the first night of a back-to-back, as they did in Toronto, they are 4-1.
Flashback to last year; before LeBron made his Decision to destroy Cleveland’s spirit. In a game between the Bulls and Cavaliers, Noah took offense to James’ dancing while the Cavs were up on the Bulls. I don’t think Noah forgot about this altercation, and maybe neither did James.
James seems to have had this date circled on his calendar. “I think it’s a huge test. We look forward to the challenge,” he said. The Bulls are looking forward to this game as well, but maybe they looked forward a little too much.
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.