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PLAYOFF game thread: Bulls-Heat Game 1

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One great benefit of 'your team' being in the playoffs is seeing how much attention they're getting now. National coverage doesn't provide us with anything new, but it still feels good to think NBA fans all over are getting their dose of Bulls talk, whether its from ESPN talking heads or not.

First off, some good news! No, not Riley's mom, the part about Alonzo Mourning being out for game 1. As I've been saying since we knew the Bulls would be playing Miami, not having to worry about Zo's interior defense is huge.

It appears that Luol Deng will continue to come off the bench, like he has since coming back from a concussion several games ago. Ben Gordon should be starting in place of the achy-backy Chris Duhon, which gives the Bulls a starting lineup of Hinrich/Duhon/Nocioni/Allen/Sweetney.

Ira Winderman reports that Antoine Walker will start at the 3 for Miami, with James Posey likely coming in to defend Deng. I suspect there will be at least 1 'Antoine Walker' game in this series when he is hitting his shots, but overall the Bulls have a pretty big advantage at the 3.

In that same blog post (fantastic Heat blog by the way...professional though, so it's not fair to the rest of us, heh) there is discussion about how the Bulls will attack early:

Figure on the Bulls relentlessly attacking the rim early in the game, in an all-out bid to draw Shaquille O'Neal into foul trouble. Once O'Neal goes to the bench, almost all deterrence at the rim will be lost with the insertion of Michael Doleac. (Earl Barron is not playoff eligible.)

With Mourning out, O'Neal will have to play a smarter and more agile brand of basketball than he has offered these past few months. Figure on the Bulls also trying to goad him into offensive fouls.

While the Bulls plan to go from the outside-inwards with their guards, the Heat will likely spend their first few possessions force-feeding Shaq down low. Look to see how many minutes that Sweetney can give them without picking up two fouls. That will keep Chandler and Allen from having to use their fouls against Shaq, and allow them to stay on the floor and attack O'Neal by drawing him out through relentless pick and roll plays. And the trickle-down effect of the foul accumulation on the Bulls big-men will mean less Othella Harrington and Luke Schenscher, which I think we can all agree is a good thing.

After Shaq, it's natural to talk about how the Bulls will defend Wade. Kirk Hinrich will have to live up to his defensive reputation, and hopefully the referees do not give too much of a star treatment to Wade in this series. Duhon, Gordon and Deng will provide some help, but Hinrich needs to be out there.

I am really excited to see how the Bulls start this series. They have been playing their best ball all season, but not against competition like the Heat will give them tonight. Shooting well, playing great defense, getting huge games from Gordon and Deng...all this will need to happen for the Bulls to put up a fight. Lets grab a game in Miami.

This game will be featured on  'ESPN Full Circle', which includes the telecast (Tirico, Walton, Jones) on ESPN, a secondary camera and commentary from the talking heads on ESPN2, and other tentacles of their empire. Comcast SportsNet will also have their own telecast, with full local pre/postgame shows.

And of course come here and leave comments throughout the night.

Lets go Bulls!