It wasn't the prettiest ball for the most part, but I will say while I hated the ugly, low-scoring NBA of the early 2000s, Thibs has made me appreciate good ol' fashioned, grind-it-out basketball. Heck, even one of the late-night radio hosts down here took notice and referred to the Bulls' style of play as... wait for it... GRITTY!!!!! I guess while Hurt Hinrich isn't playing he's doing his best Waterboy impression and distributing his "secret stuff".
"Heck, I'm making a killing off of selling this water. I may never leave this well."
So where do the Heat go from here? Well, it definitely isn't time to panic and the fans all feel the same. The Heat were actually getting open looks from beyond the arc they would normally hit but didn't last night. And then there is the Big 3. Bosh was a no-show which helps negate Boozer's horrid performance. Dwyane Wade had to labor to get his 14 points... against Marco Belinelli. And then Lebron eventually got his, but not before Jimmy Buckets made him work all first half to try and make anything happen. Considering Thibs deployed Jimmy on Lebron from the beginning, I can't really tell if the strategy was "let others shoot, don't let Lebron get his" and it just worked out that others had an off-night shooting... or if the strategy was "don't let the others beat you, oh and make Lebron work for his". It seems a weird combination of the two happened. This lends me to think this wasn't entirely a fluke, but also this is not how the series will consistently play out in the remaining games.
The encouraging thing is it wasn't some crazy shooting night for the Bulls, so that in itself doesn't make it a fluke victory. So while I expect the Heat to revert to the mean a bit in regards to their shooting and 4th-qtr defense, I'm also hoping the Bulls aren't as inept on offense as they were for small stretches of Game 1. Either way, the Bulls sent a clear message that the Heat will have to earn this series.
And while Heat fans aren't panicking, at least they now see the Bulls are here to be true foes and not merely foils. And it definitely puts the kibosh on any thoughts some of these misled fans had of the Heat running through the playoffs en route to a title without suffering a loss. Yeah, slow your roll, Heat fans.
One thing the Heat could do to try and negate the one clear advantage the Bulls possess (rebounding) is have everyone focus on crashing the boards. Problem with that is it somewhat negates one of the things the Heat love to do which is get out in transition. The Bulls had plenty of turnovers last night (thankfully they cut it down in the 2nd half) but many were not the types on which the Heat could get out and run as illustrated by only 9 fastbreak points for Miami. But really, I'm not sure what other options they have. Birdman has played well for them but he only seems to be able to provide his energy in short spurts as most games he's barely getting 20 minutes of burn. If he can get some more court time, he may be able to disrupt JoNo a bit. In fact, now that I think of it, I'd be interested in what a Birdman-Boshtrich lineup looks like out there. Definitely a lot of length compared to having Haslem out there. I'm very intrigued to see what adjustments the Heat make.
I also guess it's a sign of respect when opposing fans hate you so much they can't stop insulting you...
-Hey, Lebron, I guess it wasn't the shoes, huh...
-Classy move by Wade to insult his fans for not catching him while diving out of bounds. He really knows about loyalty.
-For all it's flaws, this group that never quits has endeared itself to me to the point it's become one of my favorite editions of the Chicago Bulls ever. This is coming from someone who grew up watching the dynasty as a teen and suffered through the Baby Bulls and basked in the glory of sweeping the defending champ Heat in '07 and climbing back to the upper tier of title contenders in the Rose era. 20+ years of watching Bulls basketball and this tough bunch is now one of the most memorable. That is a major hat tip to Thibs for keeping these guys focused and playing hard. And kudos to the players themselves for never getting discouraged or tuning Thibs out or getting frustrated with all the drama surrounding #TheReturn and doing their part to remain focused and play hard.
-I'll be in the building for Game 2 and am hoping all those Bulls fans in the MIA (I know y'all are out there, I see you all the time) get loud and make your presence felt. I might be attending the wrong game though as I have a feeling the Heat will come out looking to hand the Bulls their best shot and take them out of the game quickly. Eh, fuck it! Who am i kiddin'... These guys don't seem to pay much attention to logic, so why should I. The moment you doubt them is the moment they surprise you. And God love them for that.
-Get well soon, Lu.
LET'S GO BULLS!!!!!!!!!