[Thanks to BULLeiving in Miami for today's game preview. It's a huge game! Trade deadline is over, and the Bulls have indicated through their actions that they're pretty happy with their squad as is. Whether that means they think they're good enough to win the East, or weren't going to be good enough regardless of the proposed moves, I'm not sure. But a good way to find out is tonight's matchup.
Game is at 7 on TNT. I'll be at the UC, perhaps the most-anticipated regular season game I've been to in the 5 years I've been going regularly. Follow the live tweets, if there are any. -ed.]
Round 2... and perhaps a bit too soon....
I wanted to wait until after watching JoNo's return to write this up. Too bad a loss came with it. Aside from some sloppy offensive movement out on the floor (he didn't look completely comfortable in the flow of the offense out there), one aspect of Noah's performance that irked me last night was his rebounding. Wait! I know what you're thinking. HE HAD 10 BOARDS IN THE FIRST!!!!!! A lot of those he received for his attempted tip-ins. Sure I appreciate the hustle, but I felt watching at the time that he could've grabbed a few of those and maybe reset the offense, give them an extra possession. Granted, at that point it was early and the Bulls were ahead in the first quarter, and seeing his repaired thumb wrapped made me think perhaps discomfort is still an issue, but regardless, I felt his frantic slaps at the ball helped add to what looked like a chaotic offense out there. Is it possible that this team has gotten used to slowing down the pace of the game a bit and adding Noah's "energy" is a detriment to that? I'm not saying having Noah back is bad thing, but the ultimate question will be does this team have to readjust to him or does he have to adjust to the team's new style of play.
Still wish they had more than just 48 minutes of gametime to figure this out, as, if you haven't heard, this little team from Miami is in town. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Heatles!
In looking forward to this game (and having known they lost to Toronto) I wanted to take a look at Rose's performance in losses and see if there is a correlation with team success. What I found is it's possible his teammates are letting him down. Rose scores more in losses (25.4 to 24.8 in Ws) yet dishes less assists (7.3 to 8.7 in Ws). So are his running mates just letting him down in losses? The only major disparity in Rose's numbers to suggest his role in losses is his 3pt% (.290 to .382 in Ws), but I'm not putting too much stock into it as it doesn't affect his scoring (he scores more) and his FG% stays about the same (.445 to .450 in Ws).
But then looking deeper, Rose excels in wins following a loss. In 11 instances where the Bulls won following a loss, Rose averages 28.1ppg, only having scored under 20 once. Looking even deeper, following losses in which they lost again, Rose scores 25.3ppg, still more than his season average, and he has scored a higher point total each time, which tells me that losing doesn't sit well with him and bothers him even more each time it happens. All this suggests a player willing to put the team on his back and stop the bleeding, do all he can to ensure a victory. If these aren't the qualities of an MVP, I don't know what they are. Oh, and the Bulls are a more improved team record-wise from last year than the Heat, and the Bulls certainly didn't add LeFraud and RuPaul to their team.
Oh yeah, the Heat. They're on the court tonight as well. The Heat are an impressive 32-7 since the beginning of December (Bulls are 29-11, FYI), and playing about as well as can be imagined. The impressive thing about this team is that considering the offensive talent they have, they are just as good defensively as the Bulls. Both rank in the top 5 in OPP PPG, are the top 2 teams in OPP 3pt% and FG%, and both rank near the top in OPP APG, which suggests both teams are quick on rotations and not allowing passes to become easy shots for the opposition. These are the things that separate true contenders like these two teams from teams like the Knicks which, for all their fanfare, just don't play at an elite level on BOTH sides of the court.
Being that LeBum missed the last matchup and RuPaul missed the 4th quarter for being outhustled, this should be a fun matchup. I'm hoping the UC crowd gets loud for this one (amazing how we have a great home-court record with such a subdued crowd mostly), but perhaps we should applaud LeDouche for not coming to Chicago and allowing our MVP to flourish. Either way, it'll be exciting to see the two leading MVP candidates (IMO) head to head on the same floor. Of course, the responsibility of covering James will fall mostly on Deng, who has come up limping twice in the last week, which is starting to make me nervous about his oncoming bodily explosion. Also, Asik definitely needs to play in this one as Ericka Dampier continues to start for the Heat and moves a bit better than Big Z. One thing I DO hope for is for Mario Chalmers to continue starting and to keep chucking. He is really drawing the ire of Heat fans down here, and apparently Lil' Spoe doesn't trust Carlos Arroyo (FIUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!) on defense enough despite his outstanding shooting this year (outstanding relative to the rest of his career). But I guess against D-Rose, you can't really trust anyone defensively.
As much as I always try and stay positive, I sense the Heat pull this one out tonight (they actually win on the road). The Bulls barely escaped with a win last time, and that was a Bulls team in sync. This time around the Heat are at full strength (except Mike Miller, who won't play nor does it make a difference, he's been a non-factor all season, and Haslem continues to be out) and the Bulls are still adjusting to having their fearless screamer back in the lineup. But after years of skepticism around these parts, our team is legit and we should no longer be wary of letdowns or meltdowns. So as my mantra has become this year as I've watched this team grow: cheer with confidence (maybe a new BaB tagline).
As far as lineups go:
HEAT- Dampier- Bosh- James- Wade- Chalmers
BULLS- Thomas- Boozer- Brewer- Korver- Rose (after a surprise turn of events and we acquire Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, and Eric Gordon in deadline trades, and of course they won't be available to dress for tonight, and D-Rose goes for 80 points and we win. A funky lady pyramid will do that.)
Hostile takeover over at the blog with the dumbest name ever.