Friday, January 4, 2013

Game No. 31 Preview, Bulls-Heat: Welcome to Miami

With Michigan's football season having recently ended, it's pretty much going to be all basketball around here (Michigan and Bulls) unless something important and football-related occurs. On that note, there will probably be some "final word" type pieces to officially close the voluminous and complicated legacies of Michigan's senior class...yes, Denard. Obviously.

Chicago Bulls (17-13) @ Miami Heat (22-8)

The Opponent 
Anywho, it's been a few games but here I am again. Since I last talked about the Bulls/wrote a preview piece for the Indiana game that was then cancelled, the Bulls picked up an ugly win against Washington, an ugly loss against Charlotte and what should've been a much more convincing looking win on the box score against Orlando.

The Bulls head to Miami tonight to take on the 22-8 Miami Heat, currently a game ahead of New York and first in the Eastern Conference. This is the first meeting between the two teams this season; during last year's shortened campaign, the Bulls went 2-2 against the Heat.

The Heat come in with a two game winning streak,both, strangely, overtime victories against Orlando and Dallas. So, maybe they'll be all tired out come tipoff tonight? Let's hope so.

In any case, despite the season that Carmelo Anthony is having and Kevin Durant being Kevin Durant, LeBron James still leads the league with a hilarious PER of 30.23. Speaking of LeBron, I read this post on The Basketball Jones and thought it to be mostly true:
It would appear that a little more than nine seasons into his microscopically analyzed professional career, LeBron James has reached a place few great professional athletes, especially in the NBA, ever dream of reaching: Being boring. Kobe Bryant has managed to play twice as long without EVER being boring for an entire month. Even in the few drama-free moments of his pro hoops tenure, the lack of news was newsworthy enough that people never went in ignorance of it. But without a title to chase, a troublesome teammate or coach to battle, or a facet of his game particularly thriving or lacking, there’s just no drama left in LeBron. He’s so boring now that he can’t stop listening to Wiz Khalifa.
 Pretty much. Perhaps I don't have my finger on the pulse of the NBA zeitgeist, but it would seem that, after winning that championship, the concept of LeBron James has been relieved of any sort of controversy. Now, he's just a guy averaging 26.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 7.1 apg. Indeed, LeBron is just quietly going about his business practically unnoticed, eviscerating defenses and probably dunking on your face.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are doing their things as well, averaging 20.6 and 18.0 ppg, respectively. Offseason addition Ray Allen provides the Heat with a fourth double digit averaging scorer (11.6 ppg) while continuing his ways as a frustratingly automatic 3-point shooter (46%).

The rest of the team also reads as a list of "dudes you already know." Shane Battier is still around filling the Bruce Bowen role (i.e. defense and threes); Battier is shooting a nice 42% from three. Even Rashard Lewis, who was sort of just an overpaid albatross in Orlando in the two years after their run to the NBA Finals, is hitting 47% from three, albeit in fewer minutes than anything he's averaged since right around Y2K. Udonis Haslem is not a high usage guy at all but does what he needs to do for an undersized Miami frontcourt.

Point guards Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers are spark plug sorts that can do some damage on nights when Wade or Bosh aren't on. I should stop talking personnel...this is Miami. You know who they are.

Points of Concern 
Uh, need it be said? The Bulls had trouble with the Heat in the 2011 playoffs because they only had one star (Rose) to Miami's triumvirate. Well, Derrick Rose isn't walking through that door (but hey, Rip Hamilton is).

Playing on the road isn't so much a concern to me because of: a) Miami's moribund at best home crowd and b) the Bulls handled the Knicks at MSG not too long ago. What does worry me is the fact that the Heat can push the tempo with LeBron and Chalmers, and I don't think the Bulls have the athleticism to keep up. As the minutes continue to pile up for guys like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, you can hear those hinges getting creakier and creakier.

Three-point D is also a worry, as LeBron, Battier, Lewis and Allen all shoot it very well. The Bulls are 6th in the league in 3-point percentage defense, if that is a statistic that means something to you.

Miscellaneous Stats 
This is replacing the "What Needs To Happen" heading because I found that it often just reiterated what was said in the previous section. Anyway:
  • Points. The Heat are fourth in the league in points per game, averaging 103.6 per contest. 
  • Rebounding. If the Bulls can close the massive talent gap somehow, it's by winning the battle on the board a la Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals against Miami. Given the Heat's lack of traditional frontcourt options, they're second to last in the league in rebounding. They're rebounding just 21.3% of their misses their season (to Chicago's 28.8%). The Bulls are no longer the truly elite rebounding lords that they once were, but they are still good enough to be a serious asset. 
Useless Prediction Time 
Even in victory, the Bulls have looked a little shaky of late. Unfortunately, it seems that the win in New York didn't really give them that much momentum at all, but maybe I'm being a little too demanding.

This feels odd to even think about writing, but Carlos Boozer will need to bring a performance similar to the season-high 31-point game he had against Orlando on Wednesday if the Bulls have any hope of keeping up. Last year's numbers are naturally not encouraging, as the Heat blocked more shots (obviously) and were +13.3 per 48 minutes as opposed to just +5.9 in last year's four matchups.

I don't know that there's really a matchup on the floor that the Bulls win outright. I like Noah on Bosh, but it's sort of hard to compare the two because their games are so different. This is where the Bulls' bench would have made up the difference in the past, but, alas.

Anyway, LeBron is just too good and the Heat have too much firepower for a Bulls team that seems to be on the verge of being compressed into little disk-like things by the intense gravity of Thibodeau's minute meting SOP

Bulls 89, Heat 98.

No comments:

Post a Comment