Well, Chicago, that was pretty exciting. But after celebrating what should've been a much shorter series against the Nets (all things considered), it is time to brace for a truly formidable opponent... the defending champion Miami Heat. With the series getting underway tonight in Miami, I thought I'd start up a series of posts giving some perspective from down here in Miami. Sure, I'll be giving plenty of my opinion on the series and both teams, but mostly I wanted to provide some of the viewpoints from the other side of the coin; the Heat side. So hopefully you all enjoy reading a bit about what Heat fans down here think about their team and specifically this series against the Bulls and hopefully provide whatever clever little snippets are coming out of Miami through my following of sports radio down here and through social media. Trust me, there will be plenty since my entire social media experience consists of Heat fans.
I must also mention that this should really be the third year in a row of an annual ECF battle between these two but injuries have robbed us of that last year completely and this year (because it's not even fair). Damn shame.
Where art thou, Derrick Rose?
Even before this matchup was officially set following the Bulls' complete embarrassment of the Nets in Game 7 Saturday night, a lot of the basketball talk going on down here has been about the status of one Derrick Rose. The locals are talking about in and every national writer that appears on radio down here gets asked about it. The general opinion doesn't differ too much from what is being said here on this site. Some think he should be playing while others agree he should take his time and return when he feels truly ready. Now, the ones that feel he should be playing aren't necessarily wrong by any stretch, but they are also not well-informed on all the angles at play and all the players behind the scenes involved in this story. While some of the theories may be a bit Machiavellian, they deserve some consideration nonetheless but honestly it is only us Bulls fans that are truly consumed with and willing to think through all those angles.
Whether you think it's Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf saying "No no, take your time. No rush to play. We'll just have the insurance pay most of your salary this year to offset our paying the luxury tax" or Reggie Rose saying "Don't risk your health for this group of scrubs", everyone seems to be pulling a power play which it seems to me ultimately serves their own agenda and Derrick caught in the middle. In the end, I feel he's a well-intentioned kid, doesn't want to disappoint anyone or himself, is trying hard to do the right thing, and just wants to feel completely right and like himself when he gets back out on the court. Only time will tell with this and it may take a stool pigeon (Rip) to spill the "behind the scenes" beans at some point in the offseason. In the meantime, as has been for the last few months, nothing to see here. Move along.
Can the Bulls ruin the Heat's shot at running the table?
I must admit for as arrogant as Heat fans can be sometimes (and rightfully so, their team is one of the best in the history of the game following that regular season), many of them concede at least one game to the Bulls in this series. As much as I love the Bulls, no rational part of my brain thinks they will win this thing but I still feel there is a possible win or two to be had in this series. These two teams plays each other close, the Bulls have a way of neutralizing the Heat's strengths, and I just think this series will be a tough, physical, grind-it-out series with not a lot of high-scoring results and that is not bad because while the Bulls don't put up a lot of points themselves, if they can keep the Heat from blowing up offensively, they stand a chance to take any one game in this matchup.
So yes, after having seen how this Bulls team plays the Lebron-led Heat for 3 years now, they understand the Bulls are a tough out and might very well neglect the Heat of any shot at running the table en route to a repeat title, if you ask me if any of them are truly scared of this team? Uh, no.
Keys to Victory
It may not matter, but if the Bulls can do any of the things that led to their season split with Miami, once again they stand a chance to steal any particular game. So in typical Thibs style, we'll take it a game at a time.
If there is one game in Miami I think the Bulls can maybe steal, it is tonight. Long layoffs may not affect certain great teams like these Heat so I may just be speaking out of my ass, but I think this Game 1 is where the Bulls might sneak a win out. Momentum, in baseball, is only as good as your next game's starting pitcher. To me, in basketball, momentum is only as good as your next opponent. Well, the Heat are a whole lot better than the Nets. But there is something to be said for being in game shape heading into tonight while the Heat have been resting for more than a week. from a scouting/ game-planning point of view, this matchup actually benefits both teams since they already know each other so well. The Bulls have the added benefit of having known who was awaiting them after they finish off the Nets so maybe they've been prepping for a few days now. The Heat actually benefit from the Bulls advancing instead of the Nets, a team they may be less familiar with.
The Heat make 3 less three-pointers per game versus Chicago this season than against everyone else. So obviously the Bulls know this is one of the Heat's strengths and try to neutralize it. I think as long as the Bulls continue to run them off the 3-point line and make guys like Battier and Ray Allen put the ball on the floor, the Bulls have a shot. If Boozer can at least cancel out with Bosh's production and Butler puts the clamps on Wade, it's up to Lebron to play sensational in order to put the Bulls away.