The Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. In the race for dominance in the NBA East, they far outshine the rest of their conference brethren and therefore begs the question: Which one is better?
Right now, my money is on Miami.
At 31-9, Miami is finally playing like a complete unit. The LeBron James and Dwayne Wade machine continues to warp the space-time continuum with each fast break, and both continue to rank in the top 10 in scoring, James at No. 3 and Wade at No. 7, respectively.
It's been the play of Miami's supporting cast that has been the true difference maker, though. Chris Bosh is averaging a solid 18 points and eight rebounds per contest, rounding out the 'Big 3' beautifully.
Miami's bench, with particular emphasis on forwards Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem, continues to deliver consistently, and remain accountable for the less glamorous areas of the stat sheet, allowing James and Wade to do what they do best: score.
Miami's fortunes, game in and game out, really rest at the feet of James and Wade.
Despite the level of play they're getting out of their teammates, they are the superstars and they steer the ship. So it's a good thing that they're both averaging well over twenty points a game and have been able to stay [relatively] healthy throughout the course of the season.
What seems to be the biggest change from this year's iteration of the Heat compared to last year's, is Miami's ability to finish games.
Granted, we're not talking about the playoffs, and so we still need wait and see just what exactly becomes of James once the post-season gets under way. But the Heat have been able to finish strong in close games against strong conference opponents and that, more than anything, is an encouraging sign of how much this team has gelled.
Who is the better team at this point in the season?
What's working against the Bulls is essentially the same thing that prevented them from getting over the hump in the playoffs last year, which is the lack of big-time talent surrounding Derrick Rose.
Having the reigning MVP running the show counts for a lot, to be sure, but Derrick Rose doesn't have a fellow all-star to defer to at a moment's notice. He has no Carmelo Anthony, no Russel Westbrook, no Blake Griffin--only a supporting cast that is solid if well short of outstanding.
Come playoff time the Bulls will be at a loss in terms of generating points. Veteran Rip Hamilton is not the threat he once was, and neither Carlos Boozer nor Luol Deng can truly turn it on offensively enough to negate a bad outing by Derrick Rose.
It's a sad truth for Rose who is one of the game's elite players and, as good defensively as the Bulls may be, they just aren't on par with Miami's offensive juggernaut when it comes to putting points on the board and sharing the scoring duties.
When it comes to looking ahead to the playoffs, the overall team dynamic is what matters most. Miami is more than capable defensively, and they rely on two of the most efficient scorers in the game to either dominate in the half-court game or amaze in transition.
The Bulls are a tough unit that make their living by ferociously defending. Derrick Rose, however, will need help as it comes down to the wire in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. While it's likely Chicago will be the team to challenge Miami for a spot in the Finals, it's simply a matter of Miami having the edge in talent.
This is all relative, of course. If you're a numbers person, everything I've just argued is encapsulated in the latest power rankings featured on ESPN.com.
One could conceivably make an argument for either team, based on their level of play recently. Though, all things considered, it just makes sense that the Miami Heat are the superior team.
Either way, pour over the numbers and make your own decision.
|Category||Miami Heat||Chicago Bulls|
|STRK||Won 3||Won 2|