2011 NBA Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference Finals—Bulls vs. Heat
How big is this step for the Chicago Bulls? Well, it marks the first time the Bulls have made the Eastern Conference Finals since 1998—Michael Jordan’s last year in Chicago.
Derrick Rose showed why he was this season's NBA MVP in Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks with a 44-point, seven-assist performance. Although the Bulls have looked timid under the spotlight this postseason, Chicago closed out Indiana and Atlanta extremely well, winning by at least 20 points on both occasions.
The Miami Heat might have eliminated their biggest hurdle in the Boston Celtics, but they know trophies are not given to teams that win the conference semifinals. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have had their troubles during the season, but both have weathered the storm quite well.
They are halfway there. If they can keep up this determination, an NBA title will be theirs.
Point Guard: Derrick Rose vs. Mike Bibby
ADVANTAGE: Derrick Rose
Mike Bibby will have his work cut out for him in guarding the 2010-11 NBA MVP, Derrick Rose.
Rose is averaging 28.8 points a game during the playoffs and has led the Bulls to their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1998.
Bibby will get the start for Miami, but expect Mario Chalmers to get most of the time running the point.
Shooting Guard: Keith Bogans vs. Dwyane Wade
ADVANTAGE: Dwyane Wade
This is another matchup where an NBA superstar will see a platoon of players guarding him.
Wade has the advantage here based on his ability to take over a game on both sides of the ball. His 7.6 rebounds a game this postseason are the most he has had in any playoffs, and he can get momentum-shifting steals and blocks.
The Bulls' Bogans will share time with Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer to hopefully try to stop Wade from going off.
Small Forward: Luol Deng vs. LeBron James
ADVANTAGE: LeBron James
If there is a great matchup based solely on positions, this is it.
Deng has emerged as the Bulls’ secondary-scoring option with 16.7 points a game, but James wins here based on his ability to tally double-doubles—or even triple-doubles. His assists are down from the regular season, but LeBron is still averaging 26.1 points and 9.4 rebounds a game in the playoffs.
Nevertheless, this will be a good battle.
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer vs. Chris Bosh
ADVANTAGE: Carlos Boozer
Can either of these 2008 gold-medal Olympians shake off recent bad games?
Boozer finally woke up with 23 points and 10 rebounds in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks, while Bosh posted back-to-back double-doubles in Games 4 and 5 against the Boston Celtics.
If Boozer can shake his cold shooting, the matchup is his.
Center: Joakim Noah vs. Joel Anthony
ADVANTAGE: Joakim Noah
Between him and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anthony has really stepped up to be the Heats' premier center. His breakout performance of 12 points and 11 rebounds in Game 3 against the Celtics earned him the start in the series’ final two games.
With that said, Anthony will face a different test in Noah. Noah is making his presence felt on the glass and the paint, averaging 10.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks this postseason.
Bench: Chicago Bulls vs. Miami
ADVANTAGE: Chicago Bulls
Chicago’s “Bench Mob” have played great during the playoffs thus far as Taj Gibson provided great defense and Kyle Korver knocked down critical three-pointers to keep Chicago in games during the playoffs.
One cannot count out the hot shooting of James Jones and the backup leadership of Mario Chalmers for the Heats' second stringers.
The Bulls have a slight advantage because they have more players who can do damage.
Miami does have some experienced bench players though in Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard.
The Bulls are a very good squad that plays defense extremely well, but the duo of LeBron and Wade will be determined to give Miami its second NBA title.
Expect a good series that will go six or seven games.
PREDICTION: Heat in 6.