As expected, the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls will have the opportunity to reach NBA prominence as they look to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals. This match-up has all the ingredients to be a great one, especially when you have the three top superstars being center-staged (sorry Bosh, not you) and the top two defensive teams left in the playoffs.
Keys to Victory for Chicago:
-The defensive minded Bulls are led by their outstanding “MVP” Derrick Rose. Rose has virtually carried Chicago on his back all season. He’s been absolutely unstoppable and can instantly take-over a game. I expect Rose to put up his usual monster numbers, but his supporting cast might show up. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer must play well for Chicago. In many of Chicago’s playoffs games I’ve seen, there are many times in which the team relies on Rose too much. Rose has to create all of the offense in the fourth, and many of his teammates are afraid to take a big shot. Deng and Boozer must be able to hit big buckets in the fourth and not just sit back and watch Rose. I’m sure the Miami coaching staff will have something installed to containing Rose. Chicago’s other two offensive contributors must not hesitate to attack the basket.
-Defensively, it is going to take a huge team effort if Chicago wants to slow down the Heat. The Bulls need to make sure Dwayne Wade has a mediocre series as he did against them in the regular season. Whenever Wade gets hot, the Heat are nearly impossible to beat. Against the Celtics, Wade was dropping 30 left and right. The Bulls must make it tough for Wade, as he tends to struggle a bit when he is frustrated. Unless Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer can force Wade into a jump shooter it can be a long series for Chicago.
-Chicago’s bench must come in and give high quality minutes. The Bulls have way more depth than the Heat, and must expose their secondary unit. Kyle Korver must come in shooting red hot as he can stretch Miami’s defense.
X-Factor: Luol Deng
Deng must give Rose a reliable second option on offense. There are times when he just sits back and watches. With LeBron guarding him, he cannot do that in this series. He needs to take action and get the ball in his hands. Deng’s a good shooter and can attack the basket. He must make LeBron work on the defensive end. Deng also has the tough challenge of attempting to contain LeBron. As I don’t think anyone can stop LeBron, he must try his best to stay in front of him and make him take long jumpers.
Keys to Victory for Miami:
-Attack the basket. With Wade and LeBron, Miami must attack the paint and get Chicago’s front-court into foul trouble. I think both Wade and LeBron play their best basketball whenever they are penetrating the defense. It allows them to not only make plays for themselves, but others. Chicago wants to force these two into jump-shooters and they mustn’t play into their hands. During the regular season, Miami led the NBA in free-throw attempts. That shouldn’t change here.
-Defensively, I don’t think any of the point-guards will be able to contain Rose one on one. Like I said about Chicago, it’s going to take a team effort for Miami as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing Wade guarding Rose late in games, as Wade showed signs of grade A defense on Ray Allen in the previous series. Miami also needs to run Chicago’s shooters off the 3-point line. With Rose’s penetrating ability, it sets up great looks from beyond the arc. Miami needs to make sure they know where all the shooters are, especially Korver.
-Team mentality. There were many times in which I saw the Heat get lazy on both ends of the floor, and that cannot happen against a team with Chicago’s caliber. Miami cannot afford to hand the Bulls unforced turnovers. This includes bad offense in which LeBron or Wade just plays one on one, with no team involvement. Even though Miami is led by their big three, it will take an entire team effort to get by Chicago.
X-Factor: Mario Chalmers
We all know Derrick Rose is going to dominate the point-guard play of this series, but Chalmers must give Miami a scoring punch off the bench. With Mike Bibby being a liability on defense, Chalmers might be seeing more minutes. Defensively, Chalmers is better than Bibby, but going up against the “MVP” is no easy task. On the offensive end, Chalmers must be able to knock down open 3’s as he did against Boston.
No one has ever seen a big three with this kind of all-star caliber.
Miami in seven.