After the game they said all the right things. LeBron James talked about missing shots he normally makes and rebounding better. Chris Bosh talked about rebounding better and boxing out, which is basically the same thing as rebounding better. Dwyane Wade downplayed getting dunked on, hard, by Taj Gibson and talked about rebounding better. Head Coach Eric Spoelstra acknowledged that it wasn't just rebounding that the Heat need to work on, but total team effort, and intensity, and not getting outworked all night. It would make sense think that, just based on the way they talked after the game, the Heat will come back refocused in Game 2 and ready to play for a chance to steal home court from Chicago.
Not so fast.
They say once is luck, twice is coincidence, three times is a pattern. What is four times?
The experts told you that the regular season between these teams meant nothing, that this is the playoffs and nothing that happened in the regular season matters in the playoffs because they are different teams. Let's take a look then, shall we? After Game 1 the Bulls and Heat have played four games this year. Three in the meaningless and not to be thought of regular season and now once in this postseason.
Are there any trends that have shown?
Well the obvious is the rebounding. In all three of their regular season meetings, the Bulls outrebounded the Heat by 12 (10-6 offensive), seven (13-6 offensive), six (10-8 offensive) and of course, last night by 12 (19-6 offensive). So I think it is safe to say that, despite the regular season being so meaningless that the NBA should have just canceled it, the numbers represent a trend. Yes, James missed that first game, but so did Joakim Noah for the Bulls, so it would seem concerning that the Heat were out rebounded so badly in that game.
The reason for this trend seems simple. The Heat lack size on the interior.
Their starting center is 6'9". He is athletic, but he tends to play help side defense too much, which means he gets blocks but gives up offensive rebounds. When Joel Antyhony isn't the starter, the Heat do have some size in Ilgauskas, but he is old and can't stay with the speed and athleticism of the Chicago bigs. I think Spoelstra making Ilgauskas inactive tells you what he plans to do. He plans to play small and out-athletic the Bulls with James at the four spot and Udonis Haslem off the bench. It didn't work in Game 1, it seems unlikely to work in any other game the rest of the series. This is one area that the Heat are unlikely to make adjustments and fix.
How about the third quarters? In the four meetings with the Bulls this season, the Heat have been outscored by an average of 8.2 points and have yet to score more than 17 in any of the third quarters against the Bulls this year. The Heat have been unable to adjust quick enough to the Bulls' halftime adjustments and end up coming out flat. That isn't just a trend against the Bulls, that has been a trend for the Heat all year; it is only more pronounced against the Bulls this season.
This is a simple fix. Eric Spoelstra just makes a few adjustments at halftime and the Heat carry them over to games. It's not like the Heat players tune him out, ignore the plays he calls and just flat out don't do what he tells them to. So this is a simple fix, right?
Wade and James Missing 20 Shots Combined
Most people think that it is inconceivable that the dynamic duo of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James could shoot 12-32 again in this series.
Not so fast.
In the three games in which both of them played against the Heat this season (including Game 1), Wade and James have missed 23, 19 and 20 shots combined. Wade had a big game in the first meeting when James sat out, but even in that game he missed half of his shots. It is very likely that, if the Heat play to their preferences, James and Wade could combine for 40-plus shots and miss more than half of them.
Which Game 1 "trend" is the most concerning?
It gets even worse when you add Chris Bosh into the equation.
Game 1 was by far his best game against the Bulls, but when you watch the Bulls' rotations it is obvious that the Bulls are rotating off of him on purpose. They clearly want Bosh to shoot because every shot he takes, and he has taken at least 14 in all of their meetings, is a shot Wade and James can't take. If he takes his 18 per game, and the dynamic duo take their 40, that only leaves about 10 shots for the rest of the Heat to take, which puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the Heat to shoot while not in a rhythm.
So How Worried Should the Heat Be?
On a scale of one to 10, I think they should be a seven.
The rebounding issue doesn't seem to be an issue they can fix. They've been out rebounded by large margins in each meeting and that has to do with length, height, weight, dedication to rebounding and defensive schemes. The Heat like to leak out on defense to get that breakaway dunk, and that is very high risk against great rebounding teams. When the Heat get in trouble defensively they generally go to the zone, which is also not good for rebounding. That is a problem that is going to be there and they know it.
Likewise, their third quarter woes. This has been a season-long problem for the Heat and they, for whatever reason, have not been able to correct it. Add to that the fact that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau seems to be one of the better coaches in the league in terms of making adjustments that force opponents to play to the Bulls' strengths and allow the Bulls to exploit weaknesses, this also seems like a problem that the Heat are not going to be able to correct.
I don't think the dynamic duo will score so little points again, but I do think they need to reign in Bosh.
The Bulls clearly want him to take all of those shots; it keeps James and Wade from getting into a rhythm and they aren't really great shooters anyway. They're great scorers and they can shoot, but generally they shoot better in rhythm, and it is clear that Thibodeau is using Bosh as an extra defender against the big two.
Those things just make the Heat a five on the worried scale. I think Dwyane Wade staggering to the bench in the third quarter pushes it up a bit. It could have just been the game, it could have been the moment, it could have been the lingering effects of getting dunked on (just kidding), but in that moment he just looked old, tired and worn down.
If there are too many shots like that in this series, then you can't feel good about the Heat's chances of winning.
Let's not forget that Wade has never really been the healthiest player. He isn't really young, as he will be 30 in January, and while he has been healthy the last three seasons, he has missed 108 games over his career due to injury and, despite Shaq's claim to the contrary, that hurts the aging process.
Yes, it's just one game, but the Heat and Bulls have now played four times this season and the Heat have yet to get into the win column. That can change Wednesday night to be sure.
You don't look at the regular season as a barometer, but sometimes you do.
Sometimes the regular season isn't to be disregarded because it is actually the sign of things to come.