The Chicago Bulls are the Eastern Conference's best team and have the luxury of having the reigning league MVP in point guard Derrick Rose.
With a big game against the Miami Heat on Thursday, and the Eastern Conference likely to come down to Miami and Chicago, Miami still has the one thing that may be able to slow down the Bulls in a seven-game series.
The defensive brilliance of LeBron James.
It’s no secret that opposing point guards have had more than their share of success against the Heat this season. Miami has allowed the opposition’s point guards to average 21.1 PPG and 9.5 APG, which are the third-worst marks in the NBA.
Boston’s Rajon Rondo has made it look easy against the Heat twice already this month, and the one time Rose faced Miami, he scored 34 points and dished out six assists.
Who has the edge in this matchup?
Yet, throughout Miami’s struggles guarding the ball this season, it has the luxury of putting the 6'8" James on any point guard in late situations, something Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra will definitely take advantage of when he needs to.
For Rose, LeBron proved to be his kryptonite.
Going back to last year’s playoff series between the two teams, James was able to take Rose out of his game, especially in Games 4 and 5.
While it’s true that Rose averaged 23.4 points per game during the series, he had no success when being covered by James. LeBron locked Rose up, forcing the MVP to go 0-of-5 from the floor with a turnover in the fourth quarter of Game 4.
In Game 5, Rose struggled against him once again, going 1-of-10 with two turnovers.
Rose shot 6.3 percent from the floor in the series when defended by James, the lowest among any player that defended him on five or more plays.
It’s quite possible that Rose will never be able to figure out James. LeBron’s size and agility make him a unique player. Guys his size aren’t supposed to be able to lock up lightning-quick point guards such as Rose.
But James can do exactly that.
He’s got the lateral quickness to keep Rose from attacking the rim at will and has the absurd length that makes shooting the jumper extremely tough. At 250 pounds, LeBron can also easily absorb the contact that Rose likes to draw.
For Rose and the Bulls to have any success against the Heat in a playoff series, Rose is going to have to make a point of keeping his teammates involved, and they are going to have to make key shots late in games.
If Rose has to be the primary scoring option, Spoelstra has his ace in the hole in LeBron.
Whether he plays tonight or not, Rose knows exactly what he’s going to see from the Heat in the playoffs, and it’s something that, quite frankly, he may never be able to figure out.