Thanks to Paddyfairview for tonight's big game preview ~S2
It's easy to forget that the Bulls swept the regular season series against Miami last year, since their subsequent 5 meetings have all ended the same way: DRose gives a Herculean effort, but LeBron is too big and the Heat are too fast, strong and good to fall victim to a one-man show in crunch time. That's not to say that the Bulls haven't kept things interesting, but the consistently tight fourth quarters really only reinforce the idea that this team is, at its best, almost good enough to beat the Heatles.
And it's looking like the Bulls aren't going to be anywhere near their best tonight: Rip's out (duh), Derrick and CJ are two of Thibs' infamous game-time decisions, and Deng is slated to return unless the coaching staff decides it would be better to just throw this one. I guess it's theoretically possible for a Rose-less Bulls team to beat the Heat (and in the process escalate the LeBron debate at ESPN to the point that Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith would be forced to stop flirting and just have sex with each other), but probably this is going to go down as an L brought on by the schedule. If there's a glimmer of hope, it's that Miami lost in overtime in Orlando last night, so they'll be worn down as well. Plus, if Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer are conspicuously held out of the starting lineup, there may be a party at the UC even as the Heat put a beatdown on the Bench Mob.
POINT GUARD: DROSE or CJ WATSON or JOHN LUCAS III vs. Mario Chalmers
I'm willing to admit that Joakim Noah would probably be annoying if he wasn't a Bull, if Heat fans will admit that Mario Chalmers is the most obnoxious basketball player since Eddie House. Even I can admit, though, that he is a better basketball player than John Lucas III, who was pretty much unplayable against the Heat in January. His only highlight was getting jumped straightthefuckover by LeBron, which, OK, was pretty impressive. I think I speak for all of us when I say I don't want to see any part of him in the playoffs, especially against the Heat, so a lot is going to come down to CJ's ability to run the offense and spell Rose. If the backup PG is unplayable, Derrick's never getting through playoff back-to-backs against Miami. (By the way, if you hadn't heard, Mike James was re-signed, which probably isn't a good sign for tonight.)
SHOOTING GUARD: RONNIE BREWER vs. Dwyane Wade
Having Brewer on Wade rather than LeBron will make a big difference, since LeBron was clearly too big and strong for Ronnie last time. His offensive deficiencies are what they are, and yes, we'd all eventually like to see a full-strength lineup against Miami, but the Bulls did beat the Heat four times in a row splitting time between Bogans and Brewer last year. It feels like an aeon ago, sure, but it could happen again....right? (sigh.)
SMALL FORWARD: LUOL DENG vs. LeBron James
It's good to have Deng back, especially for this game, because while you're never going to win this matchup, there aren't too many guys you'd rather have guarding James at crunch time (except possibly Joakim Noah...remember that? sigh.) It's been speculated on here that his wrist injury has been effecting his willingness to go to the basket, so keep an eye out for how aggressively he plays coming off the rest. This could be a pretty excruciating offensive effort if he's settling for long twos with Brewer and Watson in the backcourt.
POWER FORWARD: CARLOS BOOZER vs. Chris Bosh
I can't imagine anybody really wants to take Boozer's contract off of Reinsdorf's hands, but if so, not a lot of people will be sad to see him go. Is it in him to have a statement game against the team that basically ruined his reputation in the playoffs? I don't know. Will he ever at least look like he gives a shit on defense? I doubt it. But the man he's squaring off against tonight, though he's played better this season, did once go 1-18 from the floor against Chicago. (sigh.)
CENTER: JOAKIM NOAH vs. Joel Anthony
Anthony's job is to foul people, preferably hard, who attempt to exploit the Heat's relatively weak interior defense. Joakim Noah's job is to piss off Heat fans, scream a lot, make a couple of dumb fouls and grab his hair, get the crowd pumped up and, hopefully, drop 15 or 16 points on the Heat's small/soft big men and get our guards a few extra shots on the offensive glass. Games like this are when I love having him on our team, because you just know he's not going to roll over even if the Bulls are down by 20. He can't bring us back from that kind of deficit, and yeah, anyone who wants him over Howard is crazy. But I sure hope they can eventually put another scorer in the mix with him, Deng and Rose, because he's a really fun guy to root for. And he really pisses off Heat fans.
BENCH: Usually it's no contest, but with Rose, Rip and Possibly CJ out things get a little thin. Taj and Omer still give us the edge, but I expect the Heat to go small and try to force us to play third-string guys with so many guards injured.
COACH: THIBS vs. Spo
This is no contest. Although I'd say that either way, because while some people get annoyed at Thibs' tight-lipped ways, I'd rather have that guy than the guy who tells the media his players are crying in the locker room. Remember that? (sigh.)
That's about it, here's hoping Rose plays and the Bulls pull out a big win against the Heat for the first time since last May. Barring that, let's hope no one's in the lineup because anyone who's healthy got traded to Los Angeles. Barring that, let's hope the team gets healthy before our next game against the Heat. Check out Peninsula is Mightier, if you want to hear your own comments echo back at you.