Miami Versus Chicago PreviewEastern Conference Second Round
#1 Miami (66-16) vs. #5 Chicago (45-37)
Season series: Tied, 2-2
Chicago can win if…the Bulls' defensive pressure forces the Heat to settle for long two point jump shots; the Bulls must keep the Heat--particularly LeBron James and Dwyane Wade--out of the paint while also tightly checking the Heat's three point shooters.
Miami will win because…LeBron James is on a mission; he plays multiple positions at both ends of the court, he has become amazingly efficient offensively and he attracts so much defensive attention that his teammates are able to shoot wide open jumpers and/or cut to the hoop for uncontested dunks/layups. Dwyane Wade has been hobbling for significant portions of the season and Miami has not even missed a beat. Chris Bosh is a very underrated player whose versatility is an important part of Miami's success. Pat Riley made a wise choice when he selected Erik Spoelstra as the coach and Riley has surrounded the "Big Three" with an excellent group of complementary specialists who rebound, defend and/or spread the floor by making three pointers.
Other things to consider: Chicago snapped Miami's 27 game winning streak: "The Bulls beat the Heat by attacking them in the paint at both ends of the court, by making timely fourth quarter shots and by never backing down mentally or physically. Is that the blueprint for winning a playoff series against the Heat? Of course it is--but the problem for Heat opponents is twofold: (1) not many squads have the coaching and/or personnel necessary to execute that game plan and (2) in order to eliminate the Heat a team must execute that game plan four times in a seven game series." If the Bulls had a fully healthy, non-rusty Derrick Rose and if Joakim Noah/Luol Deng/Kirk Hinrich were fully healthy then they would have a realistic chance to beat the Heat four times in seven games. Even as things stand now--with Rose apparently not returning to action this season and the statuses of Noah, Deng and Hinrich seemingly varying from game to game (though Noah appears to be getting healthier)--the Bulls will fight the Heat tooth and nail, possibly even winning two games, but it is difficult to picture Chicago pulling off the massive upset.
The Rose situation is very unusual. I cannot recall another example of any player--let alone a recent MVP--being cleared to play by the doctors, practicing without restrictions for several weeks and not even attempting to participate in the playoffs. I agree with TNT's Kenny Smith that Rose has a track record that must be respected and that we have to trust Rose's assertion that he is not yet ready to play but it is undeniable that if Rose suited up then he would have a big impact even if he could only perform at 50%-60%; the opposing defense would have to respect his presence, which would open things up for Rose's teammates. If Rose could play even just 20 solid minutes per game then this would increase Chicago's depth and return several players to their normal roles. It is difficult to figure out what exactly Rose means when he says that he will not play again until he is "comfortable." Until his recent knee injury, Russell Westbrook had not missed a game in the NBA, college or high school--and I doubt that he was fully "comfortable" every time he stepped on the court. I hope that Rose is not sitting out to preserve his statistics; Kobe Bryant has played on one leg or without the full use of an arm/several fingers because he knew that even in a reduced state he could still have an impact but he once said that other stars are reluctant to do such things because they don't want to hurt their scoring averages. If Rose is healthy enough to play then he should do so even if would just average 10 ppg in 20 mpg.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:45 AM