Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls Eastern Conference Finals Series Preview

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Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls Eastern Conference Finals Series Preview
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Miami Heat still have a ways to go if they want to even come close to meeting expectations. Next up is the gritty, defensive minded Chicago Bulls, who just finished off the Atlanta Hawks.

You won't see a playoff series with more starpower. We've got LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, the three most exciting perimeter players in the NBA today.

Let's break it down:

Series Schedule

Game 1: Sunday, at United Center, 8 p.m., TNT

Game 2: Wednesday at United Center, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 3: Sunday May 22 at AmericanAirlines Arena, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 4: Tuesday May 24 at AmericanAirlines Arena, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 5*: Thursday May 26 at United Center, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 6*: Saturday May 28 at AmericanAirlines Arena, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 7*: Monday May 30 at United Center, 8:30 p.m., TNT

 

The Numbers  (Playoffs Only)

Offensive Efficiency: Miami 106.0, Chicago 104.2

Defensive Efficiency: Miami 98.9, Chicago 98.6

True Shooting Percentage: Miami 53.9, Chicago 52.3

Point Differential: Miami +5.9, Chicago +5.9

3FG Offense: Miami 31.6%, Chicago 34.4%

3FG Defense: Miami 42.8%, Chicago 32.2%

Free Throws: Miami 79%, Chicago 81%

Rebound Differential: Miami +6.1, Chicago +7.6

Technicals: Miami 9, Chicago 19

PER Top 25 (player efficiency): #1 – Wade 29.6, #3 – James 27.1, #4 – Rose 26.4, #25 – Bosh 18.3

 

Inside

The Bulls have maintained the highest rebound rate (percentage of missed shots a team rebounds) of any team in the league through the regular season and the playoffs. Their depth on the front line is a definitive strength, especially defensively.

Behind starters Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, they boast a bench of defensive minded bigs in Omer Asik, Taj Gibson and Kurt Thomas (Yes, he’s still puttering around). Asik has a very similar game to the Heat’s Joel Anthony and watching those two go at it on the low block and on the glass will be a treat for hardcore fans.

The matchup inside between Boozer and Chris Bosh may very well decide the series. They are the best bigs offensively on their respective squads and points within 15 feet will be a luxury. Bosh shot a miserable 34 percent (seven for 18, one for 18 and nine for 14) against Chicago this year, but that atrocious one-for-18 showing was an anomaly, we hope.

The Boozer-Bosh matchup will be a major one.

 

Outside

This is where we fans will salivate. Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are the three most exciting perimeter players alive with the ball in their hands.

They’re all so good, I don’t think any can be contained for an entire series. They all are going to be impact players offensively.

The main question with Rose is can he make an impact defensively? He’s not in the same league as Lebron or Dwyane in that area.

Between Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers, the Heat better hope one can make shots. If they can’t, Eddie House will get a look because we all know he kind of likes to shoot. He’s just so hot and cold, I’m not sure Spo’s heart can take him playing major minutes.

Luol Deng is another x-factor for Chicago. He’s playing monster minutes in the playoffs (43.5), but he hasn’t been very efficient offensively, shooting a mediocre 43 percent from the field and a horrifying 29 percent from three.

It makes you wonder why he’s hoisting an average of four threes a night.

Chicago’s Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer are stout defenders, but nothing more.

James Jones has been the main swingman off the Heat bench and they need him to continue to hover around his 44 percent playoff average from three. The same can be said for Chicago’s Kyle Korver, who’s been lethal in the playoffs, shooting 47 percent from three.

 

Three Questions

1. What bigs will Erik Spoelstra utilize off the bench?

 Bosh and Anthony will play heavy minutes, but who plays behind them?

Spo can go a number of different ways. He can go big and physical with Erik Dampier or Jamaal Magloire. He could utilize Zydrunas Ilgauskas to help space the floor. Whether Udonis Haslem gets much tread is anyone’s guess.

Will Juwan Howard see some time against the Bulls’ backups? There are so many different scenarios it will be impossible to project.

2. Can the Heat contain Derrick Rose with just one man?

I cannot fathom the Heat defending Rose with either Mike Bibby or Mario Chalmers at any point in this series.

Why not Chalmers? Because he has the basketball I.Q. of rock and would foul out in about two minutes. If it is indeed Wade and/or James defending him, can they be effective without the double team on the outside?

3. Will Chicago’s “shooters” be able to space the floor?

Yes, my quotes imply the Bulls lack shooters. Who can consistently hit the three ball outside of Kyle Korver? Better hope Deng is on.

 

Three Keys

1. Miami’s perimeter shooting: The Heat are shooting a measly 31 percent from three during the playoffs and that number must improve, as Chicago doesn’t give up much inside.

They really need one player among Jones, Bibby, Chalmers and even Mike Miller to step up in each game and spread the defense out for James and Wade to operate.

2. Transition Offense: Both teams are elite defensively and a critical component in this series will be easy scores in transition off defensive stops. Rose, James, and Wade are the three best open-court players in basketball. If one squad gets a leg up here it will be a huge advantage.

3. Wade and James vs Chicago’s perimeter defense: The reason Miami is so dangerous—regardless of their supporting cast—is because they boast the two best attacking perimeter players in the game.

If Chicago is consistently able to slow down either Wade or James and limit their free-throw attempts they have a chance. It’s much easier said than done. Those two live for these moments.

 

Prediction

If you thought Celtics-Heat was physical, defensive basketball, you were mistaken. These are the two premiere defenses remaining in the playoffs.

Both teams have the same strengths in addition to their dominating defensive play. They both excel on the glass and have average perimeter shooting. They also both have elite attackers on the ball.

The main difference here, and I think this will be the deciding factor, is the Heat have two monster playmakers while Chicago has one. It’s the reason the Heat have made it this far and I just don’t see Chicago’s perimeter defense keeping LeBron and Dwyane away from the paint.

They will get to the line early and often and are too smart to continuously settle for jump shots.

Heat in 6

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