Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2013

Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat: Postgame Grades and Analysis

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    The Chicago Bulls knocked off the Miami Heat by a score of 96-89.

    The Bulls defended intelligently, slowed the pace and absolutely crushed the Heat on the glass, 48-28. So it's fair to say that Chicago secured the impressive victory on its own terms.

    For the Heat, the very same issues that have plagued the team since Christmas were present again in this one.

    Specifically, Miami got nothing from its bench or role players, failed to compete on the boards and didn't defend with enough consistency to win.

    LeBron James turned in another great scoring effort, dropping 30 points on 8-of-14 shooting. But unlike most of his other performances this season, King James didn't do much in the assist or rebound departments.

    Miami's shortcomings aside, the Bulls deserve credit for a great effort and an impressive road victory. Carlos Boozer, who led Chicago with 27 points, was especially dominant against Miami's undersized front line.

    Going forward, the Heat are going to have to address their aging and ineffective reserves, not to mention find a way to do something on the boards.

    The Bulls move to 18-13 with the win while Miami drops to 22-9.

Point Guard

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    Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat: D

    Chalmers has been slumping as of late, and it stood to reason that the Bulls' stifling defense would ensure his struggles would continue.

    Miami's point guard certainly had yet another poor performance, but it wasn't really because Chicago made things tough on him. Instead, Chalmers flat-out missed a bunch of easy shots.

    Because of the attention James and Wade attract, the man they call 'Rio typically gets more than his share of wide-open looks from beyond the arc. That was certainly the case in this one.

    Unfortunately, he just couldn't knock them down.

    That raises the following question: If Chalmers isn't out there to penetrate the lane, and he also can't hit an open shot, what's he really bringing to the table?

    Miami's point guard totaled just five points on 2-of-6 shooting as Kirk Hinrich hounded him on the perimeter and the Bulls' bigs shut off the lane.

    And, yet again, Chalmers didn't even get off of the bench down the stretch.


    Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls: B

    Kirk Hinrich is certainly no Derrick Rose, but he did just fine against the Heat.

    The Bulls' point guard harassed ball-handlers and dug down on post players all night, and though he was only credited with one steal, he forced a number of hurried passes that threw off Miami's offensive timing.

    On the stat sheet, Hinrich put up a solid line of 10 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

    As a starter, he's certainly not ideal. But with Rose's return drawing ever closer, the thought of Hinrich playing the role of defensive stopper and offensive facilitator off the bench is pretty enticing.

    Oh, and unlike Chalmers, he actually saw the court in the fourth quarter.

Shooting Guard

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    Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: B+

    Wade put everyone on notice in the early going that he had his legs in this one with a first-quarter dunk off a pass from Mario Chalmers.

    D-Wade put up 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half, and it wasn't like he ran out of energy after the break. Instead, he just struggled to get enough good looks to make an impact on offense.

    Overall, Wade's box score looks pretty good. He finished with 22 points, four assists and three rebounds.

    But in a game where the Heat needed more scoring to stay with the Bulls, Wade's 11 shots were a little puzzling. His failure to impose his will in a bigger way keeps him out of "A" territory, but he certainly wasn't the problem against the Bulls.


    Rip Hamilton, Chicago Bulls: C-

    Still looking a little rusty after missing nearly a month with a foot injury, Hamilton failed to make Dwyane Wade work on defense and turned the ball over at an alarming rate. His four giveaways in the first half really hurt the Bulls, as they cost Chicago a couple of easy buckets and allowed Miami to get out in transition. 

    Perhaps most telling, the Bulls put some distance between themselves and the Heat in the third quarter when Hamilton was on the bench. 

    On the night, Rip finished with just seven points in 17 minutes.

    Going forward, Hamilton gives the Bulls a good mid-range shooter and a veteran with playoff experience. That'll be valuable in the locker room, especially if Chicago makes any sort of run in the postseason. On the court, though, Hamilton's overall contributions don't figure to be especially significant.

Small Forward

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    LeBron James, Miami Heat: A-

    If you didn't know better, you'd have thought the first-half stat line James put up belonged to a one-dimensional shooter and not the league's most well-rounded player. He totaled just one rebound and failed to record an assist in 19 first-half minutes.

    Things picked up for King James after the break, but he finished with a pretty pedestrian (for him) 30 points, two assists and six rebounds.

    As the de facto power forward, LBJ simply has to do a better job on the boards. Either that or the Heat are going to have to figure out some other lineup that puts a better interior presence on the court.

    It's getting old, but as was the case with Dwyane Wade, James wasn't the problem. He just needs more help from his teammates.


    Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls: B+

    Nobody on the planet can really stop James, but Deng usually comes closer than most. In this instance, he gave a game effort, but ultimately couldn't prevent James from topping the 20-point barrier.

    That's okay, though. Nobody has all season long.

    It's almost unfair how much coach Tom Thibodeau asks of Deng on a night-to-night basis. The Bulls' forward typically draws the toughest wing assignment on defense and has to shoulder an increased scoring load with Rose out.

    In addition to all that, he leads the league in minutes per game.

    In this one, he made things fairly tough on James and even showed his defensive versatility by forcing Chris Bosh to give the ball up in the post a couple of times.

    Because he made James work for his points, we're excusing Deng's unimpressive stat line of six points, five assists and four rebounds. He played hard for 43 minutes in this one, and even though James scored plenty, Deng was invaluable to Chicago.

Power Forward

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    Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat: F

    At this rate, we're going to have to start reevaluating how we spell the word "non-factor." From now on, it'll go like this: U-D-O-N-I-S.

    Erik Spoelstra tends to give Haslem the starting nod over Shane Battier when the Heat run up against a big front line, but he's eventually going to have to find another option. Haslem finished with just four points and three rebounds in 20 minutes.

    If he's not going to mix it up with the Bulls down low, who can Spoelstra use him against?


    Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls: A

    Coming off of a season-high 31 points against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 1, Boozer kept right on scoring against the Heat.

    He hit his first five shots en route to 11 first-quarter points, a fast start that never really stopped. Boozer finished with a team-high 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting and was a constant problem for the Heat's front-line defenders.

    Based on the overall rebound discrepancy, it should go without saying that Boozer was also excellent on the glass. He pushed the Heat around down low to the tune of 12 boards, including six on the offensive end.

    If he keeps playing like this, all that talk of amnestying him is going to get a lot quieter.


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    Chris Bosh, Miami Heat: D

    For what seems like the 50th game in a row, Chris Bosh scored in double figures but failed to fill the role of a true center.

    Miami's decision to go small this year has been a success on offense, as most bigs aren't comfortable stretching out to guard Bosh's mid-range game. But the downside has been a consistent drubbing on the boards.

    Bosh pulled down just five rebounds, and his inability to clean the glass was perhaps the biggest reason Chicago won this game.

    Bosh is a good player, but it appears he's just not cut out to bang inside against bigger bodies. Don't be misled by Bosh's plus-10 plus-minus figure. He just couldn't hack it against the Bulls' bigs.


    Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls: A-

    Joakim Noah missed Chicago's last game because of an illness, but he looked like his typical energetic self against the Heat. 

    Just like Carlos Boozer, Noah pulled down a dozen boards, half of which were on the offensive glass. He also contributed his criminally underrated passing from the elbows, which netted him four assists.

    Though Noah played just 36 minutes, which is a light evening for him, he had a major impact on this game and totally dominated Chris Bosh inside.

Sixth Man

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    Norris Cole, Miami Heat: D+

    Norris Cole isn't usually Miami's sixth man, and he didn't technically play the most minutes off of the Heat's bench, but he was certainly Erik Spoelstra's most valuable reserve.

    Unfortunately, that's because Miami's subs pulled yet another collective no-show.

    Cole scored six points in 16 minutes, but did most of his damage in the first half. After the break, he missed both of his shots and went 0-for-2 from the foul line.

    On the season, Cole has been one of the NBA's very worst players. His PER of 4.92 is the lowest in the league of any player getting at least 19 minutes per game.



    Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls: A-

    The Bulls' sixth man usually doesn't do much besides score, but considering that's really all he's supposed to do, he had a darn good game.

    Robinson put in 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and a couple of his buckets came at key moments in the fourth quarter as Miami was narrowing the Bulls' lead.

    In an ideal world—which would include a healthy Derrick Rose—the Bulls wouldn't have to finish games with Robinson on the floor. He's often too much of a defensive liability, and he's as capable of shooting his team out of games as he is of keeping it close.

    In this particular contest, though, he gave Chicago big baskets and even took a charge on Ray Allen underneath. He was excellent.


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    Miami Heat: F

    As a unit, Miami's bench combined to put up 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting, but if you subtract Norris Cole from that calculus, those figures drop to just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.

    Put another way, the Heat bench stunk up the joint again.

    Shane Battier was 1-of-6 and Ray Allen took just three shots, so Miami's key veteran reserves produced next to nothing.

    This is becoming a serious issue for Miami, as the Big Three continue to produce, but almost never get any support from the team's role players.

    Bad times.


    Chicago Bulls: C+

    Well, the Bulls' bench was better than Miami's in this one. So there's that. Unfortunately, there are probably a handful of junior-college teams that would have outproduced the Heat reserves, so giving the Bulls an edge here doesn't really say much.

    Taj Gibson played his typical gritty defense and did some nice work on the boards, but he played just 17 minutes.

    Marco Belinelli couldn't buy a bucket, shooting just 3-of-8.

    To be fair, Jimmy Butler played well, as he parlayed good energy and activity into a solid line of eight points, two assists and five boards in 18 minutes.

    And we're excluding Nate Robinson's stellar performance from our grade here, so the Bulls are lucky to get away with anything better than an average mark.