If the Bulls didn't have the Heat's attention before, they sure as hell have it now after going into Miami and stealing Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series. Much was made of the "rust factor" for the Heat, and while I do believe that may have been the case early on, it doesn't explain why they blew a seven-point fourth quarter lead. The Bulls flat out took that game with superb offensive execution down the stretch to go along with stifling defense.
Of course, now the question is how the Heat will respond. This is a team that has put together one of the best stretches in NBA history over the past few months of the season, so one would expect a much better performance, especially on their home floor. And we've seen the Heat respond to challenges like this before, whether it be against the Bulls in 2011, or in the three series they trailed in last year's playoffs.
In terms of adjustments, I'm not sure how much the Heat actually change. They generated plenty of good looks in the first half that they simply missed, including quite a few wide open three-pointers. The Bulls made a conscious decision to pack the paint, but I doubt Tom Thibodeau was thrilled with just how open a few of those threes were. Luckily, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and even Ray Allen could not hit the broad side of a barn (combined 4-of-15 from deep).
I would imagine LeBron James looks to get his scoring going a bit quicker, as he seemed rather content early on being a distributor and looking for those open shooters. Jimmy Butler obviously did a great job making life difficult for LeBron, but we saw in the second half what happens when the MVP really focuses on scoring.
The Heat certainly need better performances out of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and especially Bosh. The Heat big man was absolutely Boozer-esque in Game 1, which led to diminished minutes and helped give Joakim Noah more free rein to roam the paint. When Bosh is knocking down jumpers, it forces Noah out from under the basket, freeing up more driving lanes for James and Wade.
Defensively, the Bulls are sure to see more of the aggressive trapping that hurt them early in Game 1. The Bulls were able to figure things out in the second half, turning the ball over just five times after 11 first-half turnovers. As long as the Bulls are able to keep the turnovers relatively low and keep the Heat out of transition, the game shouldn't get out of hand unless the offense just goes in the tank.
Something else to watch for is LeBron on Nate Robinson. Robinson lit up Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen in the fourth quarter of Game 1, so if things are tight, I would certainly expect to see James take that matchup. We've seen James guard Bulls point guards before, whether it be He Who Must Not Be Named in the 2011 playoffs or John Lucas III last season.
On the injury front, Luol Deng still remains in Chicago and Kirk Hinrich is likely out again with his calf injury. So it's pretty much business as usual for the consistently short-handed Bulls. It's hard to imagine this group taking both games in Miami, but it's getting really hard to count these guys out of anything anymore.
One final note: I'm really interested to see how this game is called tonight. The refs let both teams play in Game 1, and that really favored the Bulls. If things get called tighter tonight, expect a Heat parade to the line. Hopefully that won't be the case.
Another 6 p.m. CT tip-off on TNT.