Chicago Bulls vs Miami Heat Eastern Conference Finals Preview, Prediction and TV Schedule

The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat are ready to meet in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals, which means that we can finally have the match up of #1 and #2 that we’ve been wanting.

Not only are both of these teams in the upper echelon of the current NBA, but they also feature three of the league’s most amazing players. And both teams use one key ingredient as their backbone:

Defense

derrick-rose-lebron-james-chicago-bulls-miami-heat-previewIt has been a proven formula that defense wins it all. Ask the Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and the Los Angeles Lakers. So it comes to no surprise that two of the league’s strongest teams are both defensive specialists.

Whether it is by locking down the paint, harassing players on the wing, or just putting on an overall team defense clinic, you can bet it will be all on the table in this series.

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Eastern Conference Finals TV Schedule: Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat

Here’s the schedule for the 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals in it’s entirety:

  • Sun 15th in Chicago 8:00pm  
  • Wed 18th in Chicago 8:30pm  
  • Sun 22nd in Miami 8:30pm  
  • Tue 24th in Miami 8:30pm  
  • Thu 26th in Chicago 8:30pm  
  • Sat 28th in Miami 8:30pm  
  • Mon 30th in Chicago 8:30pm  

So the question is, which defense will win this war? Will the defensive tandem of LeBron and Wade disrupt Derrick Rose and his supporting cast? Or will Chicago’s ability to clog the paint and harass the wings with length win this war?

I might be able to shed some light.

Chicago Bulls vs Miami Heat Preview

Season series: Chicago Bulls won 3-0

Any series that features Derrick Rose or LeBron James or Dwyane Wade is worth the watch, correct? This series features all three. For those who love a battle of superstars and flashy moves, this series has it.

With the Chicago Bulls currently possessing the NBA’s MVP in Rose, you can assure yourself that they will bring it to the Heat. But don’t think it’ll be that easy for Chicago either. We just saw how LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were able to spell trouble for a hindered Celtics team in five games as well. Now they’re running on all cylinders and gunning for the Bulls.

But the question is not just which stars will shine the brightest. The role players have proven to be huge factors for both teams in the playoffs thus far, and coaching decisions have introduced some key variables as well. And how about the crowds? We’ve seen some electricity from Chicago’s fan base, and even the late-arriving Miami crowd has begun to ignite more than we’ve seen.

So while this series is headlined by the star power, it’s actually about so much more.

Does the season sweep matter?

With these teams having met a total of three times during the NBA’s regular season, you know it’d be foolish not to look at how these two teams fared against one another.

 

bulls-heatIn the first game, LeBron James did not play and neither did Joakim Noah. While it was huge for the teams to miss both, we learned in the first game that Rose and Carlos Boozer could keep up a fight against Wade and Chris Bosh. With clutch defense down the stretch and a strong performance from Rose, the Bulls took a close first game.

Then came the second game, which showed a lot to me as an NBA analyst. I learned that Boozer can definitely shut down Bosh (who went 1-18 in this game) and that Derrick Rose can score at will against the Heat’s defense. The second game was close, but the Bulls took yet another from Miami.

So with two games stolen from the Heat, how would LeBron and Co respond in the third game?

The final game of the season series proved to be worth the watch. We had each of Miami’s Big Three scoring over 20 points and putting in efficient performances. As for the Bulls, Derrick Rose went for a strong 27 points, and his supporting cast played strong as well.

What is the one thing that separated the two in this game? Greater defense by Chicago, especially on Miami’s final possession when LeBron took it to the rack with 15 ticks left and the game tied. He was guarded by Noah, who most would assume LeBron could beat on his way to the rim, but that proved false. Noah stuck to LeBron, forced a difficult layup, and LeBron’s miss gave the Bulls a 3-0 series win against the talents from South Beach.

So with the Bulls having taken three from Miami, what does that say for this series?

While the Bulls did play a great season series against Miami, all three games were won by a total margin of eight points.  Another factor that comes into play has to be Miami’s chemistry. Since the playoffs have started, we’ve definitely seen much improved and more cohesive play out of Miami. LeBron and Wade seem to have figured out how to take turns at fighting a team’s D, Chris Bosh has found his comfortable niche, and Miami is playing with a newly found confidence.

While the Bulls deserve credit for the season series, don’t think it’ll be as easy this time around — especially when it wasn’t that easy in the first place, despite the pristine 3-0 record.

The backbone: Defense

No other way to put it people.

The key to winning it all in the NBA is defense, as it has been for years. This is why both of these teams made sure defense was their backbone upon entering the regular season. You can’t be disappointed by the results either, as both finished at the top of the NBA standings.

But which defense will come through and take it in the Eastern Conference Finals?

For the Heat we’ve witnessed what a powerful defense can do. Shutting down the great Boston Celtics in five games is as impressive a feat as there is in today’s NBA. But what is it that they did that really hurt the Celtics?

While the Heat have one of the better defensive ratings in the NBA, led by coach Erik Spoelstra and his dedicated to hard work on the defensive end of the court, much of the credit must go to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Their presence on the court is enough to jitter an opposing player’s mentality. It is not just because these two are among the greatest to ever play the game, but because they’re both committed to bringing it defensively. The reasons these two are so efficient defensively is their speed, strength, and ability to cover a large area on the court. No two players on any team match the defensive ability these two present.

 

derrick-rose-defenseDon’t get me wrong; with players like Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers, the Heat have a some pieces of a solid defensive supporting cast as well. But the reason Miami is at the top defensively is the duo of ‘Bron & Wade.

And how about the league’s best defense in Chicago? Why are they so good on the non-sexy end? Is it Thibbs? Is it because of the MVP? Or is it just an overall team effort?

The reason Chicago is in this position, playing for a spot in the NBA Finals, is not just because Derrick Rose is a great scorer or because Carlos Boozer is a solid complementary piece for Rose. It’s because Chicago has been committed to defense from the get-go; and unlike Miami, Chicago has solid defenders from top to bottom on their roster..

Any strong argument for Tom Thibodeau winning the Coach of the Year award has to be based on his ability to instill a defensive mentality into the minds of every player on his roster.

It also helps when you have players like Luol Deng on the perimeter, a guy who can hassle slashers with his length. How about Keith Bogans? His defensive intensity has been known in the NBA for a while, and he should prove to be some trouble for Wade.

Then when you have big-bodied Carlos Boozer down low, it is enough to bother a player like Chris Bosh, who doesn’t like to play under the rim. As for Joakim, he’s probably the second best defensive big man in the NBA right behind Howard.

And Derrick Rose? Well his speed alone is enough to keep up with any guard in the NBA.

Chicago’s bench is also filled with length and height. You have Brewer and Gibson, both of whom possess good length, and you also have annoying defenders like Asik.

Enough cannot be said about how good of a defensive team Chicago is, and that is why I give them the edge over Miami in this category. While the Heat are a very strong defensive team, the Bulls are the best. Enough said.

The Stars Align

And finally we come come to the biggest factor in the Eastern Conference Finals: the stars.

After Miami’s much criticized offseason, they were left with the strongest combination of stars in the current NBA and probably the most star power we’ve seen on one roster since Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers. The assemblage of Wade, LeBron, and Bosh proved to be difficult to handle in the regular season, and it has been even harder for the opposition to handle in the postseason. Being pitted against these three in a seven-game series is almost the equivalent of basketball Hell. The team I thought would best match up against Miami, Boston, already fell to them in the second round. Unquestionably, the Heat will give Thibodeau, Derrick Rose, and the top-seeded Bulls a run for their money.

But you’d be foolish to think that Miami will have it easy against Chicago.

Derrick Rose is the league’s MVP, and he is deserving. His speed makes defenses question themselves, his ability to orchestrate an entire offense is only matched by a couple around the league, and his improved jumper has sealed his position as one of the NBA’s best and most dynamic players. The pressure that he takes off his entire team makes the Bulls that much better.

But you’d be crazy to think Rose is Chicago’s only star.

Carlos Boozer was brought in to be Derrick Rose’s Robin. However, due to a tear in his toe, Boozer hasn’t been fully effective until just recently. His last game to close out the Hawks was quite impressive though, as he posted 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists while going 10 0f 16 from the field. If this is a sign of things to come from Boozer, the Heat have something to worry about..especially Chris Bosh.

While most won’t consider Joakim Noah a star, I believe he is. While I hate the type of guy he is, I love the type of player he is. The one word I think of when it comes to Noah is ‘annoying’, whether it’s his ability to relentlessly attack the glass, force you into bad looks at the rim, or just roar whenever he gets a putback dunk. Noah is one of those players that might not put up the amazing stats all the time, but he will always leave his imprint on the game.

So while Chicago does have its own strong trio of stars, they cannot compare to the star power LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh bring. Boozer certainly has the ability to outperform Bosh in this series, but Wade and LeBron alone are on another level.

Bulls v Heat Prediction

So what should NBA fans expect from this series?

First off, you need to expect some high scoring performances from LeBron, Wade, and Rose. No matter how strong each team’s defense is, these three will break out at one point or another in every game. You can also expect some bursts from Boozer and Bosh, but not as often as the previous three.

While both teams play amazing defense, and both teams have the mentality and heart to steal an NBA Finals berth, there are a couple of things that give one team the clear edge in this series.

Chicago’s lack of another player who can be explosive and create his own shot will hurt their chances in this series. At some point, Chicago will need to go out and acquire a 2-guard that can combine with Rose to come close to matching what LeBron and Wade bring to the table. Another key component is Chicago’s “first-times”, as I like to call them. A first-time head coach, a first-time ECF for Derrick Rose, Boozer, and Noah, and the first time this team will be tested defensively in a seven-game series.

As amazing as Derrick Rose is, and as great of a team as the Bulls have been, I’m calling their season over in this series. Yes, the Miami Heat get what they came together for: a berth in the 2011 NBA Finals and a chance at a ring.

Prediction:  Miami Heat in 6

 

2011-nba-playoffs-eastern-conference-finals-miami-heat-chicago-bulls



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