[Thanks to Bullieving in Miami for today's game preview. Chris Andersen is out and Wade is dealing with an illness. -yfbb]
Well, the circus is back in town. No, not the Ringling Bros. circus that just left the UC but rather the NBA circus that is the Miami Heat. Seriously, when did it become necessary to put an entire team in a commercial? I hope Birdman got paid for his part. Dude could probably use the money to pay child support.
The 2-time defending champion Miami Heat roll into town with a record of 14-4. They are coming off a loss to the Detroit Pistons that ended a 10-game winning streak. Curses! Almost had another chance to bust a streak. Instead, the Bulls look to right their own ship, having lost 2 in a row including Monday's triple-overtime defeat at the hands of the Pelicans. Oh yeah, the Bulls have also lost 6 out of 7. Basically, it's sad times in the Windy City. And really, at what point do you stop calling it a rivalry when it's clear one team is better than the other?
Dwyane Wade did sit out the game in Detroit with knee soreness. Probably just precautionary (4th game he's sat this year) as he may have tweaked it Sunday when the Heat had to bust their butts to beat the Bobcats (nooo, we need them to win!). It's a bad habit the Heat are displaying once again of falling behind in games only to have to go all out to pull off a victory. They did it numerous times during their 27-game winning streak last year. You heard me? I said 27-game winning streak. Not 28, not 29, not 30. Sorry, couldn't resist since that streak-ending game in Chicago was the last time the Heat visited the UC during the regular season. Back to the Heat... they needed a 38-point effort in the 4th quarter to take down the Bobcats Sunday night.
Lebron James enters the game once again having a terrific season in spite of battling some back issues in the early going. Still, he has not missed a game and enters this contest shooting lights out. He's currently sporting a near 60% shooting rate from the field and is over 47% from downtown. Who knows how sustainable that is even though we are already almost a quarter of the way through the season, so it's no small blip. It's undeniable the man is head and shoulders above anyone else that steps on the court with him and his legacy in the grand scope of NBA history continues to grow and grow. At this point it's hard to imagine anything stopping Lebron besides an injury, and seeing as he's basically indestructible we might just want to hope for a zombie apocalypse instead.
Meanwhile, the Bulls aren't exactly the picture of good health at the moment. Jimmy Butler is still working on that turf toe thing, because y'know, he plays football. Really, why can't we call it "court toe" for basketball players??? Guess it just doesn't roll off the tongue. Whatever.
Also on the injury front, Mike James apparently sprained his MCL before the game against the Pelicans. Kirk Hinrich may have caved into a singularity after playing 53 minutes (Lu scoffs) in that triple-OT thriller. So expect the Bulls to debut a new PG tonight... oh wait, doh! Marquis Teague makes his return from a short-lived D-League stint to provide at most another warm body in uniform. Poor guy wasn't even in Iowa long enough to post a selfie on Instagram of his planned visit to the historic Hinrich Farm. So any improvement we hoped for from a little seasoning in the minors will have to take place under live fire. View with caution.
Back to the Heat for a sec. As I wrote in my Opening Night preview (seems so long ago already), an interesting offseason addition for the Heat was Michael Beasley. Just a little update: the guy is averaging just over 11 PPG in 17 minutes of burn per game while shooting .547 from the field and .529 from beyond the arc. Very good numbers for an erratic shooter. I've been saying it all along this could be a very good signing for the Heat. B-Easy obviously has the skills; playing on a team where he's only the 4th, 5th, or 6th fiddle will only help that. He's coming off a 31-min, 23-pt performance in the loss to Detroit. So he'll be someone to keep an eye on tonight as he'll assuredly get some extended run if Wade is held out again, which is a possibility since I guess the Bulls have become one of those games on the schedule where the Heat could rest him. ::sad face::
With no Rose, no Nate, no consistent shot creators (not to overlook Lu's recent hot streak), just about the only advantage the Bulls hold is rebounding (5th in REB%) as the Heat still suck at that (29th). So the Bulls can hope for a lot of Heat misses. Oh wait, they shoot almost 51% as a team. Really, it's just hard to expect a cold night from the Heat. They also have the 2nd-highest mark from 3 in the league 41%. Seriously, guys, these numbers are making me weep. But what can you expect from a team with such great depth. They have sharp-shooters up and down that roster. They have 8(!) players shooting over 40% from deep, and that doesn't even include Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis, either of whom can get it going at any moment. The Heat can run 10 guys out on the floor and literally every one of them has to be accounted for on defense. Needless to say the Bulls have their work cut out for them tonight, especially missing one of their premier perimeter defenders in Jimmy Butler.
Finally, in going off the beaten path here for a moment, wouldn't it be fun if NBA games could be decided by a mascot matchup? Logistics aside (yes, it'd be hard to get a Sun and a Bull in the same place to do battle, and what the hell is a Laker, but I gather you know where i'm heading with this), wouldn't it be fun to have maybe CGI mascots go at it and it somehow influence standings? This, along with the genius idea of spicing up NASCAR by putting a bunch of smashed alcoholics behind the wheel, could provide endless entertainment value, especially in a lost season such as this. Eh, who am I kiddin'... that fiery ball that is the Heat logo would just singe our Bull to death. Bulls lose anyway.
In an odd scheduling quirk the NBA seems to be doing on an annual basis now this game will be the LATE game on TNT's Thursday night double header, meaning a game time of 8:30 in Chicago, with the tip-off most likely occurring later pending the conclusion of the first game. Should make for a late night of getting tanked (see what i did there?).
Game time: 8:30pm CST on TNT.
Head over to Hot Hot Hoops to get their perspective. I hear their membership just went from 3 to 4.