Derrick Rose wasn’t even on the court, but the Chicago Bulls didn’t need him as it turns out, beating the Miami Heat, loaded with all their big three, with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combining for 71 points. In a 106-102 win, probable preview to yet another Eastern Conference Final clash, the Bulls were just too much as a team for a worn out side, falling behind in the race for home court advantage.
LeBron was great with 35 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Dwyane Wade was great, with 36 points and 7 rebounds. It was evident they didn’t have anyone to play with. Chris Bosh hasn’t been very consistent since the beginning of February, and his absence hasn’t fixed the problems. He finished with a terrible 3-15 from the field, 12 points and only three rebounds.
Like with most Chicago wins, they outworked the opponent in the paints, with the rebounding numbers clearly showing who’s boss. No player grabbed more than 8 boards, but 8 players finished with at least 4 rebounds. The Bulls won 50-34 in the rebounding battle, which is too much of a gap to overcome when the interior game for the Miami Heat simply doesn’t work.
John Lucas III stepped up in the absence of Derrick Rose, coming off the bench microwave (Vinnie Johnson for those who remember) style, scoring 24 points in 26 minutes. Joakim Noah was huge with 14 points, 8 boards and 4 blocks, while the Bulls dug their way to victory against a team that looked like it sent out only two soldiers, despite being the best in the league, to battle, which isn’t enough at this type of level. Playoffs? Don’t talk to me about playoffs.
March has been rough on the Heat. After a 11-2 February, they have already lost four games in March, split into two back to back losses streaks. All of these losses have been on the road, with a day off before they arrive in Philly to play a very good defensive team, that has been struggling of late, winning only 5 of their last 10 games.
The Bulls are still hoping to land Pau Gasol, with Carlos Boozer as part of that deal. Boozer finished with only 2 points and it’s getting clearer and clearer that he won’t be returning to be a dominant, and more importantly, consistent guy in the paint anymore. Taj Gibson doesn’t have the 20-10 potential in him, but he gives more than Boozer in less minutes plenty of times. The problems is finding a team to make a three-way trade with the Lakers, who aren’t really liking the options in front of them right now.
The Miami Heat aren’t really in the trade rumor game, with everything gambled on their three aces. Problem is, even when LeBron James and Dwyane at their best, a win isn’t a guaranteed thing against the top teams in the East. We learnt last postseason that regular season losing doesn’t mean a thing.
The Heat simply dominated the Bulls in the playoffs, but the Bulls are a year wiser and older. If the Heat can’t get consistent contribution from their other guys, most importantly Chris Bosh or anyone willing to do some scoring in the paint, the fingers are going to be, unfairly, pointing at LeBron James once again.