Game 1 was a great first punch by the Bulls. The players, the team and the TNT announcing crew were ecstatic. Unfortunately this is a seven game series and the Heat have made all the necessary adjustments and have dialed up their defense to another level, proving the Celtics defeat couldn't simply be attributed to Boston's declining age. Even when Carlos Boozer can provide capable support for the MVP the Bulls weren't even close to stealing a victory in Game 2.
All of this and we've still yet to see a breakout game by Dwyane Wade, who is overdue for a monster offensive performance. Chris Bosh has shown he's not even close to being intimidated by the Bulls defense and James was able to put his stamp on the game on both ends of the floor, giving more assurance that all three can help the Heat keep their home court playoff winning streak going tonight.
Speaking of defense, the MVP hasn't shown he's in the same league as Wade or LeBron on that end of the floor and he's been a non-factor the last two games in crunch time with what his biggest skill is, to put the ball in the basket or to facilitate for his teammates. Before this series, Rose would penetrate to the basket and have just enough space to contort his body for a spectacular play around the rim. The highlight layups and dunks are nice and everything but the Bulls would play their best when he'd dish out to his shooters for wide-open jumpers or scoop the ball to a waiting big man who had the rim to himself with all the attention focused on Rose. The Heat don't have the biggest lineup with their current rotation but with Haslem, Joel Anthony, LeBron and Chris Bosh able to cover so much ground and rotate effectively, Rose has found all lanes to the paint closed.
It's time for the Coach of the Year to come up with a counter-punch already. Spoelstra and the coaching staff have had the upper-hand since Game 1. A 1-3 hole would be fatal for a young, inexperienced team led by an MVP with all the pressure on his shoulders.
No one needs me to tell them how monumental tonight's game is. There is an enormous difference between being up 3-1 and tied 2-2. With a loss, the Heat would lose the home court advantage they worked so hard for in Game 2. As such, I think tonight has the chance to be a classic.
The Heat have succeed these last two games by playing stifling defense on the interior and shooting the ball well against what was the top defense in the NBA this season. The first probably isn't sustainable, but in such a small sample size you never know. The Bulls have struggled in tight, but have shot very well on long twos, so maybe each balance out a little tonight. Regardless of the shooting, the Heat need to focus on not getting dominated on the glass. They've found a way to tread water the last two meetings and walked away with victories. The Bulls cannot score efficiently without second chance opportunities, thus it is of utmost importance to keep Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer at bay.
I think many people have written this series off already, and I'd caution Heat fans to not do so. The Bulls are a terrific team capable of putting together a performance like Game 1 on any night. Do I think it will happen? No. I believe the Heat will win tonight's game and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Chicago scrapped to the top of the standings during the regular season by means of Thibodeau’s defensive mold. It wore opposing teams down, enough for Rose to heroically finish them off. It’s sufficient for the regular season roulette, much too similar to LeBron’s cavaliers, but seemingly not enough to overcome an opposing team with more equally stout defense and more firepower.
After a Game 1 Heat falter, giving in to the Bulls’ biggest strengths, Miami has countered by covering their deficiencies and hitting the Bulls enough to subdue them. Expect Rose to be featured in different sets in the offense while Chicago works towards solving the gargantuan puzzle of maintaining the Heat’s Big Three in check.
Putting down the people’s darlings in a 3-1 hole heading to their home in Chicago puts a bounty of doubt in the Bulls, while a 2-2 stance only evens the Heat’s demise at the start of the series. The show out West has shown what experience and manpower can do to a young and feisty team and the hope is history repeats itself out here in the gritty East.
Photo courtesy of the Miami Heat/AmericanAirlines Arena