The defending champs will look to continue an impressive season against the Chicago Bulls, who recently defeated the Brooklyn Nets in seven games in the previous series. While the team has dealt with various injuries to key players, the squad continues to fight hard to keep the season alive.
Chicago also ended the Heat's 27-game winning streak in March, so there will likely be plenty of emotion on each side of the court in this series.
This is certain to be one of the more entertaining matchups of the postseason, so make sure to pay attention to every second of the action.
|1||Monday, May 6||Heat||7 p.m. ET||TNT|
|2||Wednesday, May 8||Heat||7 p.m. ET||TNT|
|3||Friday, May 10||Bulls||8 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|4||Monday, May 13||Bulls||7 p.m. ET||TNT|
|5 (if necessary)||Wednesday, May 15||Heat||7 p.m. ET||TNT|
|6 (if necessary)||Friday, May 17||Bulls||TBD||ESPN|
|7 (if necessary)||Sunday, May 19||Heat||TBD||TNT|
Season Series (Tied 2-2)
Jan. 4, 2013: Bulls 96, Heat 89
Feb. 21, 2013: Heat 86, Bulls 67
March 27, 2013: Bulls 101, Heat 97
April 14, 2013: Heat 105, Bulls 93
What They're Saying
Joakim Noah is known to play with a lot of emotion during games, but he was clear-headed when describing the upcoming matchup (via SportsCenter):
"It's going to be a war." - Joakim Noah on upcoming Bulls-Heat series.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 5, 2013
Miami better be ready to handle a full effort from the Bulls, because the high-energy play is what has this team still alive in the playoffs.
Nate Robinson, who played a big role in the seven games against the Nets, also had plenty to say about what will happen against the Heat (via ESPN):
We got to bring more energy together as a unit, as one. They're the world champs from last year, and they're on a mission, just like we're on a mission. Two teams about to collide and it's about to be a good show.
One thing is certain: the Bulls will not be intimidated going into this battle.
Key Player: LeBron James
Who else were you expecting? LeBron James is the best player in basketball, and he will be the most important player in this series for the Heat to advance past the Bulls.
So far this season, Chicago has done a great job of limiting the MVP's impact on the game. In four matchups, James is only averaging 14.5 shots per game, which is the fewest against any single team. He also only managed 4.5 assists per game in these contests.
Although the superstar was still able to get his points at the free-throw line, the Bulls certainly do not make anything easy. They play very physical basketball, and James will have to step up his game to reflect that.
If he is unable to play at his usual level, Miami will be in trouble.
Key Matchup: Chris Bosh vs. Joakim Noah
This series will be decided by the battle down low. Between Noah and Carlos Boozer, the Bulls have as imposing of a frontcourt as there is in the league.
How many games will the Bulls win in this series?
While Chris Bosh uses skill around the basket to get his points and rebounds, Noah simply out-works his opponent for the ball with a great motor that does not stop until the clock hits zero.
Miami's biggest weakness is its inability to consistently rebound. The team ranked dead last during the regular season in boards per game, and this could become a problem against Chicago. A big advantage on the glass will lead to extra possessions and eventually more points.
When the Bulls ended the Heat's long winning streak, they outrebounded the champs 43-31 without Noah in the lineup. Boozer had 17 himself.
Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen need to step up their efforts on missed shots and make sure they handle Chicago in the post. Otherwise, this could be a tough series to win.
The Bulls deserve a lot of credit for simply reaching this point. They were able to win a Game 7 on the road without Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and a number of other players nursing various injuries, not to mention Derrick Rose still on the bench in a suit.
Obviously, the squad is tough and will not go away easily. This energy and will to win should allow the group to at least get a win or two in this series, especially at home.
However, Miami has the talent, the health and is well-rested after having more than a week off between games. While this is as tough of a matchup as the Heat could have hoped for in the second round, they should be able to do what is necessary to win.
As long as James and Dwyane Wade play to their ability, the squad will win four games and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prediction: Heat win in six games