By Matt Noonan
So, it’s Chicago (1) vs. Miami (2), which I guess is what we all wanted, right?
Didn’t we want to see Derrick Rose challenge LeBron James and Dwyane Wade? I guess, but maybe, we all wanted to see Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen take on the Bulls?
Either way, this series features the best and second best in the Eastern Conference standings, so make sure to pay attention to this particular series, which should feature a great deal of fireworks, electricity and lots of highlight reel moments.
Why Chicago Wins: It all begins with Rose, ball movement and defense. If the Bulls want to advance to their first NBA Finals since 1998, then they need to put the ball in the hands in the second coming of Michael Jordan. Yes, I refereed to Rose as the second coming of Jordan because not only is he sporting the same uniform that Michael once wore, but also because the there is a great deal of similarities between the two men. Not only are they the heart and soul of the Bulls franchise, but also, they are leaders on and off the court, so expect Rose’s leadership to be a key factor in this particular series.
Against the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers, Rose was the key to the Bulls offense. Not only does he lead his teams with points this postseason, but also, assists and steals, so expect Rose to do his very best to take the ball away from James, Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Bulls are not only a great offensive team, but also, play fundamental defense and the reason is their head coach, Tom Thibodeau, who has turned Carlos Boozer, Luol Dang and Joakim Noah into monsters in the paint. Noah has been a true “beast” this entire postseason, grabbing close to 10-rebounds a game and averaging two blocks against opposing offenses. Noah will be a major factor in defending the Heat in the paint, but unlike Boston, who had no one to help clog the middle besides Garnett, Noah can lean on Boozer and Dang for help.
Finally, not only does Chicago need to crash the boards on offense and defense, but also, pressure James and Wade constantly. Unfortunately, one can’t double team Wade and expect to win, so the Bulls will have to limit the Heats offensive series and secure defensive rebounds.
Why Chicago Loses: There are a two reasons why the Bulls will lose this series.
First, going into a “somewhat” hostile environment. South Beach heckled the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in rounds one and two, so if they can bother the Bulls, then consider Games 3 and 4 to be won by Miami.
Second, if Miami stops Rose, they’ll win this series. Rose somewhat reminds NBA fans of LeBron James because he has the capability to takeover games at any time, but if the Heat can pressure him into taking off-balance shots, as well as making ill-advised decisions on both offense and defense, they’ll win.
Why Miami Wins: Against both the Celtics and 76ers, what did the Heat do extremely well? The answer, rebound, so if the Heat wants to advance to the NBA Finals, they need to outrebound the Bulls, which means, boxing out Noah, Boozer and Dang.
Also, they have to have great performances every night by James and Wade, along with some of their bench players, like Mario Chalmers and James Jones. The Heat may not totally qualify as an “all around” team, but against Boston, Miami’s bench was one of the reasons why the Celtics season has concluded.
Why Miami Loses: Egos would be the biggest issue concerning the Miami Heat.
When the “Big-3” came together last July, the biggest question was could all three NBA All-Stars keep their egos in check? Besides the “super-star” tandem of Bosh, James and Wade, the Heat are a bunch of regular “scrubs.” Sure, Chalmers and Jones will play significant minutes against the Bulls, but can they really take down Chicago without their “star” players?
Also, Miami will lose if the referees call the game, “fairly” and not allow James or Wade to get away with their silly fouls. Against the Celtics, there were indeed some real questionable calls, so if the referees call the game fairly and Chicago can draw fouls, advance to the free-throw line and sink their uncontested shots, then they’ll be able to win this series.
Overall Prediction: It pains me, especially as Boston Celtics fan to say this, but I am picking the Heat to win the series in six games. Yes, six games and the reason is because James and Wade.
As for Chicago, the Bulls are young, somewhat inexperienced, but also are not ready to take that leap to the NBA Finals. Losing against the Heat will teach the Bulls a real lot, as well as prepare them for future success. Chicago is a dangerous squad, but I’m not sure they’re ready to return to the stage that once belonged to Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.