Lets get it on. We kinda knew the Bulls are going to face either the Celtics or the Heat in the conference finals, we knew that from the second these playoffs began. I think we were surprised by the relative difficulties the Bulls went through to get here – Despite the final blowout win over the Hawks in Game 6, that series was tougher than that last game suggests. The Heat-Celtics series was not a 4-1 series. It was a lot tougher than that.
Still, despite losing to the Bulls three times during the regular season, with Rose averaging 29 points, 6.3 assists while shooting 44.6% from the field against them, the Miami Heat are getting tagged as favorites for this series. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s performances against Boston, especially in Game 5, tipped the odds in their favor. Chris Bosh is no longer soft. His defense on Kevin Garnett and overall play against the Celtics have silenced that talk.
So why will the Heat win, and how? Well, they’ve got the best trio in the league in Bosh, Wade and LeBron. When all three are hittin’ it offensively, no team has a chance. They’ve found the lineup that works for them on both ends, despite it not being the starting one. Mike Bibby is a non factor offensively and Mario Chalmers is the better defender. Once again, they have a huge assignment to guard at PG, the 2010-2011 MVP, Derrick Rose.
Look, the Heat had great and bad patches during the regular season. Their three losses to Chicago were in a combined margin of 8 points. Stopping Derrick Rose will be the key, but not the only one. Rose didn’t light up the scoreboards in the 93-73 win over the Hawks, but he did dish 12 assists. His teammates aren’t the most reliable offensively. Carlos Boozer did finally produce a 20 point night, but who knows if he can keep that up, the thing he was signed for? Loul Deng isn’t Paul Pierce, with all of his qualities. Unlike Rondo, Rose can’t be fully stopped.
LeBron James spoke about how plenty of guys are going to guard Rose along the series with James probably doing it in the closing moments. The key will be the help, just like in the Celtics series. Double teams but quick responses to open passes. It sound like defense 101, but it’s a lot harder, and Miami were among the best in the league on defense this season. Making Rose force himself but from the outside, take more than 25 shots a night while unable to get a passing game going. On offense there are no set plays for the Heat. They thrive on creating poinst on fast breaks, best and quickest in the league, and hoping LeBron James and Dwyane Wade remain hot. They’ll get their points, and it’ll remain to be seen how to Bulls handle them.
The Bulls? Derrick Rose can win a game alone. But he can’t win an entire series alone. The Bulls will live and die by their defense eventually. If they can create enough points of turnovers and Rose leads those fast breaks like he did in the 93-73 win over the Hawks, it’ll be just fine. The Bulls allowed 91.6 points during the regular season, best in the league. Like Rose, there’s no completely stopping LeBron and Wade. Well, Wade can be, but that just makes it easier for James to thrive and take over. I think the key will be roughing up Bosh. And that’s where Noah and Boozer come in.
The Chicago Bulls are an excellent rebounding team, and if they can win the offensive boards battle while making it impossible for Bosh on both ends (meaning Gibson and Asik have big part to play), the Heat are in trouble. A big key in their domination over the Celtics was how Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh played. Actually, the Heat were better when LeBron James played as a 4 and Bosh as the only big man. If he’ll have his hands full trying to stop guys crashing the boards and doesn’t get help, the Bulls will do well.
As for stats that might have something to do with this series – When a one All-Star MVP team meets a three All-Star team, the triple AS guys usually wins, five out of six times to be exact. In 1994 Olajuwon led the Rockets over the Knicks with Ewing, Starks and Oakley as their All-Star core to win the NBA title. I guess Rose needs to channel his inner Nigerian former goalkeeper in order to win this one. Or just be MVP’ish every single night.