[Thanks to Bullieving in Miami (of course) for today's preview. Given the early start, just gonna make this the game thread as well -yfbb]
After six months of enduring what at times has been some insufferable basketball, Da Bulls have survived an entire season without Derrick Rose and earned the right to play in the postseason which starts next weekend. This game marks the last time both of these teams matchup against a team headed to the playoffs (Miami has games versus Cleveland and Orlando, Bulls play Orlando and Washington) so this can very well serve as a tune-up for the games that actually count. In that regard, I'm expecting the Heat to have the Big 3 out on the court even if it's in limited minutes. I wouldn't be surprised though if Lebron is held out against the "big, bad Bulls" so he wouldn't have to endure, y'know, actually playing real basketball.
You might've heard, but in case you didn't, the last time these two teams faced each other it was kind of a big deal with the Bulls ending the Heat's bid to achieve immortality and stopping their historic winning streak at 27 games. The game, according to Heat fans, was marred by the fact the Bulls weren't just rolling out a red carpet to the hoop for Lebron. Fouls happened, Lebron complained, and Danny Ainge opened his big mouth. While I think Ainge's comments were out of place (why are you going out of your way as a GM to publicly state your opinion about a game that didn't involve your team of senior citizens...) I do agree with the point he is making: why are you, Lebron, complaining about contact that wasn't malicious when you're one of the most physically imposing athletes on the court?!? Who knows if the Bulls laid out the blueprint for rattling Lebron... I personally don't think it'll make much of a difference and feel the Heat will cruise to the Finals, but a team can certainly try to employ this tactic and possibly throw Lebron off his game to at least make a series interesting after seeing how it apparently got to him.
And really, what WAS he complaining about?
As you can see, for all Lebron whined about "non-basketball plays", he himself tried to use his physicality, which he does often, and bulldoze Kirk on his way to a transition bucket. In fact, were this the new NFL, he wouldn't even be allowed to do what he did there in the open field (putting his shoulder down against an oncoming defender).
Then towards the end of the game...
Again, nothing to see here. I said it when I initially saw the play and after it got reviewed I was glad it wasn't ruled a flagrant foul because it was not. It was a good, hard foul and if you look at the overhead view (@ 0:35) you can even see Taj pull his hand back once he realizes he's catching Lebron up by the shoulder in an attempt at deflecting the ball. Don't let Heat fans try and tell you otherwise because they will have you believe Taj went all Macho Man Randy Savage on Lebron and attempted to clothesline him.
It's a shame Lebron felt the need to retaliate to what was nothing really and subsequently complain about the contact because some on this forum were heavily defending his "maturity" before the game that day (who could those losers be...). While undeniably Lebron remains the best player in the world, his apparent frustration and post-game comments killed some of the goodwill he had earned amongst NBA fans and once again proved how winning shifts public perception.
As far as actual basketball being played (since that is all Lebron is interested in), the Heat are 7-1 since that game in Chicago with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, and Ray Allen each sitting out some of those games at different points to heal and rest in prep for the playoffs. The Bulls...? They are 4-5 including losses to the Pistons, Wizards, and 2 against the Raptors this week alone. The Bulls are literally the Walking Dead with an actual zombie running around out there in Rip Hamilton, who returned to the lineup recently. The rest of the roster might as well be dead with no Joakim Noah, no Taj, and no MVP point guard to speak of.
If the Bulls are to win this game that probably doesn't matter much to Miami, they will need to limit the turnovers and limit the Heat's second chance opportunities. Heat players up and down the roster are putting up great shooting numbers, especially from deep, and will hit 1 of 2 if you give them multiple opportunities on any given possession. Although the Bulls may also try and employ the same physical play, I don't know that they really want to get into a tussle at this point with the playoffs right around the corner. Still, knowing these two teams' competitive nature, especially when playing against each other, I expect an entertaining game and would be on the look-out for Udonis Haslem in case the game does becomes too physical for poor, wittle Lebron to handle. I do feel the Heat probably take this one and look to exact even a little bit of revenge on the Bulls in front of their home crowd and might just be as motivated to avenge a loss on their court earlier in the season at the hands of the Bulls as the Bulls did in the UC.
It's an early start (1pm EST/ Noon Central) on ABC so make sure to get your drinking on early and enjoy the festivities. Will be enjoying this one live and hoping Bulls fans show up as strongly as they usually do down here even after this miserable yet entertaining season. If anything, stuff like #Streakbusting just adds to the lore of the Bulls franchise and helps us maintain a modicum of pride for the Bulls in what has been an otherwise frustrating season.
GO BULLS!!! Hot Hot Hoops, blah blah blah.