The most followed team this season comes to Chicago to face the Bulls in a storybook matchup that is sure to be talked about for years. The top remaining seeds in the playoffs(Bulls #1 overall, Miami #3 overall/#2 East) could very well determine the 2010-11 NBA Champions.
Whether you want to praise the Heat for beating the Celtics, or if you want to make excuses for a Celtics team that clearly lost it’s way, the Heat will be brought in the East this Sunday.
Let’s break down the Miami Heat lineup.
The Bulls thought they avoided playing Bibby in these playoffs when they faced the Hawks. However, in limited reps we don’t have a lot of detail on Mike Bibby’s habits against this Bulls team. He was traded to Washington for Kirk Hinrich and then released by the Zards just in time for the Heat to pick him up. His offense is streaky, and his quickness makes his overall speed look respectable for a point. He is not fast like a young Jeff Teague, but Bibby still has an arsenal of offensive moves. He will rely on jump shots offensively and spreads out the floor in his quasi-starter role. His defense is a liability and he will go for full quarters without contesting any shots. What he lacks on the ball defensively, he makes up with by playing the passing lanes well. He positions himself well, and knows how to play the technical aspect of the game. Since his arrival in Miami, Bibby has not played with a lot of confidence, and at times, becomes a spectator to the superstars.
Expect Bibby to get pulled early for Mario Chalmers and spend more time guarding Bogans than Rose.
Some say that he’s the best all-around shooting guard to play the game since Mike. Wade certainly has the skills and belongs in that argument, although I wouldn’t ignore Kobe Bryant. You can expect 48 minutes of Wade using every advantage he can get a hold of. Many of which do include some of the best flopping in the league. He will get to the line and Tom Thibodeau knows that he has to compensate for favorable calls early on.
Wade will fall to the ground, act like he is hurt and maybe done for the playoffs, only to come back and play in the game. He is resilient. At this point in his career, the Bulls can either fall for it, or respect his game and give him everything they got. Once the Bulls empathize with one of his acting jobs and go soft, Wade will own the team on both sides of the court.
The MVP of the league for two seasons prior will come to Chicago and do his best job of spreading defenders thin. What can I say about LeBron that hasn’t been said before? The Bulls need to slow down Miami’s transition basketball if they want to control any part of this series. You can’t stop Miami from changing the tempo of a game in a matter of a possession, but we can frustrate LeBron and force him to make mistakes.
After a 6 game series against an arguably better defender, strictly at the small forward position, in Josh Smith, expect Luol Deng to provide a good challenge to the self-proclaimed “King” James. Noah and Gibson will also need to stay out of foul trouble, as they will be the main defensive backups to Deng when guarding one of the best finishers in the league.
Bosh has been off and on against the Bulls, but expect him to play a more elevated game in the ECF. He has an arsenal of every big-man technique in the game, but his decision making is questionable at times. When Bosh gets cold, he’s completely cold and likely wont come back to his form until the next game. He can rebound and block shots among the best in the NBA, and he has been overlooked this season when playing in the shadow of Wade and LeBron. The Bulls can not overlook Bosh.
Bosh does not take things as serious as the other two. He is soft at times and distracts from the overall floor effort. At no point or time will the Bulls purposely try to initiate a mind game with Chris. They will let him get comfortable before they expose his weaknesses.
245lbs of meat and the only center that Miami can rely on to switch tempo. Think Chris Richards, but stronger and faster. Anthony plugs holes in the paint, and he can draw a lot of contact when needed. He can make midrange shots, but only as a last resort. Joel hustles on defense until he’s out of gas. He is an average filler for the inactive Erick Dampier.
Mario Chalmers has been the Heat’s number six guy for most of the season. He is a high energy, high emotion player that ignites a spark off the bench. Expect him to jump in quickly and help carry the load of guarding Rose at the first sign of trouble. He has a decent 3pt shot and can slash offensively. He also knows how to double team well, and cause turnovers defensively. Mike Miller was signed to take that 6th man role, however, he has never found his grove coming off the bench. Nevertheless, Miller can be a deadly accurate shooter and the x-factor of the Heat’s bench.
Do you really think the Heat had money to sign role players after nabbing 3 max free agents? Guys like Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juan Howard? Maybe if this was 2005. Yeah, they can make things happen on the floor, like a professional basketball player should. Coaches don’t lose sleep over Miami’s depth.
What used to be an Arena of white t-shirts propped on seats, has become the bandwagon of the decade. Miami fans are loud and obnoxious, know as much about basketball as an alcoholic knows about being sober. The scariest fan in the audience will be Pat Riley, who has been burned by the Bulls repeatedly in his career. Also, because the Heat knocked off the Celtics, we might see LeBron’s stepfather, Delonte West in the stands.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Starts this Sunday at the United Center.