Is there a chance for the Chicago Bulls, with so many injured players and coming off an exhausting first round series to pull off the upset? The fact that the Miami Heat struggled against them through the regular season might prove to be the only thing that keeps them going, but eventually, it’s going to be very hard even imagining them making it through a best-of-seven series against LeBron James and a very well rested bunch of NBA champions.
The key in both wins for the Bulls this season against the Heat, once in January, at Miami (96-89) and then again in Chicago, ending the Heat’s 27-game winning streak with a 101-97 victory, was rebounding, offensive rebounding. The Heat have been vulnerable to that issue throughout the season, but have done a decent job in keeping that issue from harming them in the second half of the season. Still, with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler crashing the boards, it’s hard for the Heat to expect to win those battles.
But about everything else tends to go in their favor. They have the three most talented offensive players on the floor each time, while the Bulls rely on either Kirk Hinrich making it an organized game, or on the insane basketball that ensues whenever Nate Robinson has the ball. It does create defensive problems for the Bulls, who struggled with Deron Williams until Jimmy Butler took over taking the point guard. Now, Butler will probably be guarding LeBron James, while Luol Deng might not even show up due to his injury problems.
On the other end of the spectrum there are the Heat, who needed only four games to claim the first round series against the Bucks, while also proving a point against both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, keeping the two of them on 27.6 points per game combined, and keeping the Bucks on 85.3 points per game during the series. While the Bulls are bound to hurt the Heat’s scoring and points per possession efficiency, which was the highest in the league going into the playoffs, it’s hard seeing them creating too much of offense, even if they did surprise some by scoring more than 90 points on five of the seven games against Brooklyn.
Predictions – The Bulls can make life hard for the Heat, but they’re losing players like flies. Eventually, there’s too much of a quality gap at almost every position in the Heat’s favor, without the need to bring up how good LeBron James is right now. Anything more than 5 games will be a surprise to me.