"How willing are we to get our hands dirty?" Heat coach Pat Riley asked Monday in advance of tonight's Game 2 in Chicago.
C'mon now. There's more to Chicago than big-shoulders determination. Riley, deep down, understands it when he gets beyond talking about Miami's self-destructive "sense of entitlement" as reigning champion.
The Bulls, Riley said, "know what it takes to beat us, and they do it."
If some of the explanation shows up in so-called hustle numbers - transition points, second-chance points, turnover points - well, the Heat hasn't been good at any of that stuff all season. Maybe it's just a matter of Chicago being able to exploit those Miami deficiencies.
Wade may think they played with 'regular season effort', but I prefer to believe they had all the effort they needed, they're just old, slow, and hobbled. If the Bulls continue to play quicker than them I like the Bulls to take game two.
The Heat will have to do more than just try harder, they will make some adjustments. Perhaps get more size on Luol Deng (and expect some borderline-dirty help defense too) while still looking for ways to trap Gordon. Hope that Wade can get closer to the rim so it not only gets him easier looks but allows the Heat's role players for open shots of their own. And Shaq needs to stay on the court and stay effective enough to where the Bulls finally give in and double-team him. But a lot of it is hoping that Gordon/Deng/Hinrich play themselves out of the game. If they were great every night they'd be better players than they are. There's no better time than now to take that leap in consistency, but I would be lying if I said I didn't think Deng or Gordon had a shit game in them for this series.
But in terms of that 'energy' shlock, this is the playoffs, all that should be consistent across the board by now. It's who's executing, who gets a little luck, and who's imposing their offensive style that will win. The Bulls shouldn't rely on the vagueries of block/charge calls to get the upper hand, they'll keep the pace they way they like it (and again, that's not just fast breaks, but in half-court play as well) by being quicker.
For some reason I see a big game for Ben Gordon tonight, and a punch-in-the-mouth-then-run-and-hide victory. I'm guessing that's just wishful thinking, because any close-and-late game gives the advantage to the Heat, so I'd like to avoid that whole scenario altogether in a way that didn't happen in Game One.
No tickets to this one, so I'll be checking in throughout the game. But likely only if the Bulls play well. If they don't I'll be too busy fuming and/or weeping, and I don't want to shake the confidence of the readership by displaying that!