The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat play tonight at 8 EST in Chicago, a game that will be nationally televised on TNT. The past two seasons the teams have battled atop the Eastern Conference standings. Derrick Rose's injury has the Bulls currently in fifth this season, but they are still within two games of second place in the East.
The Bulls and Heat have met once this season, on Jan. 4 in Miami, with the Bulls winning 96-89. And while the two teams aren't fighting for the top spot in the east this season, this could easily be a second round playoff matchup if the Bulls finish fourth or fifth.
These are the matchups of the starting lineups for both teams. Expect another great game between Eastern Conference rivals tonight at the United Center.
Point Guard: Kirk Hinrich vs. Mario Chalmers
Here are two pesky defensive point guards at very different stages of their careers. Hinrich, 32, has begun to lose his athleticism, but he is still a fantastic in pick-and-roll defender.
Chalmers doesn't bring the ball up the court often with James and Wade playing next to him, so he often is used as a spot-up shooter. This season he's played the role well, shooting a career-high 40.3 percent from behind the arc, with over half of his shots coming from downtown.
These two play the point guard role, but expect both to see time defending the opposing shooting guard. Miami will likely use Chalmers to chase Rip Hamilton around screens, sparing Wade the task.
Overall, these are two of the smaller names in this matchup. Miami gets a slight edge because of Chalmers' shooting this season.
Shooting Guard: Rip Hamilton vs. Dwyane Wade
Shooting guard is the Heat's biggest advantage over the Bulls. Wade has nearly doubled Hamilton's scoring, rebounding and assist numbers this season.
In the last matchup, Wade was very efficient, scoring 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Hamilton scored just seven points.
The Bulls won't be able to stop Wade, but they need to contain his scoring. Expect Jimmy Butler to get plenty of minutes while Wade is on the floor.
Small Forward: Luol Deng vs. LeBron James
This is a matchup of Eastern Conference All-Stars, although James is clearly in a different class than Deng.
Deng is known as one of the best wing defenders in the NBA, but he was unable to slow James down in January. LeBron scored 30 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field. He also held Deng to just six points.
The Bulls managed to win their last matchup with the Heat despite James' success, but Deng needs to find a way to keep him out of the paint and shooting long jumpers in order for the Bulls to have success.
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer vs. Udonis Haslem
Boozer is the player the Bulls need to step up most in order to beat the Heat tonight. He is averaging just under 16 points per game this season, but he has struggled against Miami in the past.
He needs to take advantage of the aging Haslem, who is averaging just 3.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season. Crashing the offensive boards against a poor rebounding Miami team will help generate easy points and extra possessions for the Bulls.
Center: Joakim Noah vs. Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh may be the most intriguing player to watch in this game. He is a perennial All-Star and one of the best big men in the league, but he has had his ups and downs against the Bulls.
On March 14, 2012, Bosh shot 3-of-15 from the field in a Heat loss at the United Center and Bosh was blamed for much of the loss. In February of 2011 Bosh shot 1-of-18, finishing with just seven points.
While he has been better since, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson give Noah fits with their length. The Heat need his scoring to supplement James' and Wade's.
As for Noah, not only is he responsible for guarding Bosh, but he has to be the last line of defense when Wade and James get into the lane. He needs to clog the lane, contest shots and stay out of foul trouble. The Bulls no longer have Omer Asik to fill in when Noah is on the bench.