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« Bulls Close Out Atlanta, Advance to East Finals Bulls Surge Past Miami With Another Peak Effort »

Bulls Fri May 13 2011

9 Things About Bulls vs. Heat

rose autographs (chris sweda).jpg

Derrick Rose / Tribune photo: Chris Sweda

After months of waiting, after the perfunctory dismissals of two inferior opponents, it is time for the biggest basketball games in Chicago since the Jordan years.

bulls heat series logo.PNGThe Bulls are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 13 years, set to open a best-of-seven series against the surging Miami Heat on Sunday night at the United Center.

As good as Derrick Rose & Co. have been this season -- most recently in Thursday's decisive Game 6 in Atlanta -- it's hard not to give the Heat a slight edge initially after seeing them handle Boston in five games. Twelve of 14 ESPN experts picked Miami to win the series -- which is not to suggest, oversensitive Bulls fans, that Chicago cannot win this series, but simply that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are probably the best two players in the league, with all due respect to Rose's achievements this season.

There is a strong possibility this will not be the most beautiful team basketball we've ever seen, given the ability and propensity of Rose, James and Wade to simply explode to the basket seemingly at will. You won't, on balance, see the five-man ball played by Boston or Dallas at their best. But with both teams closing out the semifinals in peak form, every game should be a must-see event.

Nine more scattered thoughts:

1. Yes, the Bulls won all three of their meetings with Miami this season. No, that doesn't really mean anything. Both teams are different now, especially a Heat team that is using vastly different lineups these days.

2. Very few teams have anyone who can stay in front of Rose, but Miami point guards Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers will get positively torched if they try to guard him. There's little chance Dwyane Wade won't draw the assignment during the biggest moments of the game, if not throughout.

3. This should settle the 2011 MVP debate once and for all. LeBron still is the game's most dominant player, but if Rose can carry the Bulls into the NBA Finals, it'll be hard to deny him every last shred of glory.

4. Carlos Boozer vs. Chris Bosh is a delightful matchup of perhaps the two most frustrating power forwards in the league. It's not entirely fair to call them underachievers, but it would certainly be nice to see one or both of them step up in this series. Boozer took a big step in that direction last night.

5. I'm excited to see what Luol Deng, one of the game's most underrated players, can do defensively against LeBron. He's got as good a chance as anyone to slow him down a bit.

6. The Bulls' 10-man rotation worked wonders at times against the Hawks' much shorter bench, and it's hard to see that not being a significant edge for Chicago again in this series. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver have all had big moments in the playoffs.

7. The center matchup between Joakim Noah and Joel Anthony should be a nice battle between two of the league's most active big men. (Boy, I'm fond of superlatives today.) Neither is especially skilled -- though Noah continues to distinguish himself as a passer -- but they make up for it with indefatigable hard work.

8. How will Chicago receive Wade, their basketball ex-boyfriend? Here's guessing the Robbins native gets some love and LeBron gets all the hate.

9. Reasonable minds can disagree on the distastefulness (or awesomeness?) of LeBron, Wade and Bosh joining forces to chase championships, but please, don't let them tell you it's no different than what Boston did in assembling the triumvirate of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Miami's three were free agents in the prime of their careers; Boston's were potential (or sure-fire) Hall of Famers, to be sure, but all closer to the end of the line than the beginning. The Celtics took on significantly more risk. They did it "the right way" by building up a cache of young talent and trading multiple pieces for two singular stars, instead of simply using the sun, sand and nightlife of Miami as a lure. And of course, they kicked things off with a team-bonding trip, not a grotesque exercise in premature coronation.

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Rich / May 13, 2011 3:16 PM

1-8: Good breakdown.

#9 seems off. You say Boston built their team differently, and the "right way".

McHale (Minn) and Ainge (BOS) made a back room deal for the unprecedented 7 player for 1 trade.

The Limitation of the players union is that, financially speaking (which is what the Union is all about) Garnett (and Lebron for that matter) should have signed with Chicago in both cases. And in both cases the League and the Union turned their backs on us.

It was a back room deal by former teammates that built the Celtics...not this fairly tale you wrote here. Boston is more like Miami than not...and Lebron's show was awesome, I watched it and loved every capitalistic minute of it! :-)

Jim Reedy / May 13, 2011 5:27 PM

The McHale conspiracy remains a cute story, but do we actually have any proof of this? If you're going to trade KG, you could do a lot worse than Al Jefferson.

Moreover, my central point was that Boston took on a significant risk by building a team around three aging stars. All three seemed to have seen better days, especially Pierce and Allen, and there was a lot of talk that the Celtics might have made a dumb, desperate move and acquired a bunch of over-the-hill former stars.

Last summer, though there were some contrarians, the vast consensus was the Heat were going to be terrifying. How soon and how many, not if.

It's just the difference between the Yankees developing Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte, et al., and the later Yankees flat buying talent. (No, the Celtics didn't develop KG and Allen, but they traded for them using players and picks they mined themselves.)

Shane / May 13, 2011 6:36 PM

Rich, you are an idiot. If you liked Lebron's "The Decision" you should go eat s*** and die. You must be a homo from Miami.

Jim Reedy / May 13, 2011 9:00 PM

Well, Shane, that was ridiculous and uncalled for. Thanks for reading!

Rich / May 14, 2011 11:52 AM

Jim...another good breakdown, and I see what you are saying. Can't wait for Sunday. I don't think we'll find any memo's with these guys going over the scam. However, isn't the duty of the Players Union to watch over it's players? Let's get them as much money as we can. The Bulls were ready to dish out the most cash for Garnett (and Lebron), yet those players went to the team that was willing to give them less money.

That is not equilibrium, and there is your conspiracy leaving the Bulls out. It's a slap in the face to collective bargaining when essentially you have players taking LESS money to play for a specific team. Boooooo! Scam!!!

Shane, fair enough. Lebron's "Decision" was nothing more than America looking at itself in the mirror. If you did not like what you saw, then you don't like yourself. Perhaps you are living in the dark about how America's Greedy Imperialism is reflected in something as simple as sports. That lifestyle is exhibited in even the proles of society.

If one enjoyed the "Decision", then I think it is a reflection on someone being wide eyed to how the world works. It's not some fairy's egos and cash. Embrace it!

Jim Reedy / May 14, 2011 8:25 PM

@Rich -- It seems wildly illogical to complain that the NBPA did not force/pressure LeBron and/or Wade to sign with Chicago for max dollars. Say what you will about their decisions, but it strikes me as the height of sports fan hypocrisy (or Bulls homerism) to bash these guys for not following the money. No wonder athletes feel like they can never satisfy all the "haters."

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