Sort of Live Blog: Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls

This should have been the game of the regular season, but Derrick Rose is sitting out with a groin injury.  Regardless, watching Miami work against Thibodeau’s awesome defense should serve as a good study for when these two inevitably meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Plus, you can never underestimate the power of real homecourt advantage, and the Rose-less Bulls will no doubt enjoy that at the United Center.

Having said all that, denying disappointment here would be a total farce.  No matter how close this game is, it won’t be what it should have been had Rose been in the Chicago lineup.  With much less excitement than originally anticipated, Miami at Chicago is this week’s (Sort of) Live Blog.

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Prediction: Miami lost an overtime heartbreaker in Orlando last night, and it’s hard to envision them losing two straight games of such magnitude even if it is the regular season.  Of course, if it would happen anywhere it would be at the Madhouse on Madison at the hands of the league-leading Bulls.  But with Rose out nursing a minor injury, the smart money is clearly on Miami.  With a sure-to-be raucous crowd behind them, the short-handed Bulls will keep it close but come up just short: 94-89, Heat over Bulls.

Matchup to Watch: Of course, what the basketball universe looks forward to most in games between these two is the fourth quarter when LeBron switches over to defend Rose. While that would undoubtedly serve as awesome crunch time theatre, we’ll have to wait for that until the next time these two meet.  The x-factor for Miami against Chicago has often been the offensive play of Chris Bosh, so that’s what we’ll pay special attention to tonight.  How he fares against Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Carlos Boozer will go a long way in determining who wins this one.

First Quarter:

  • Awful start for Bosh.  He’s missed two open shots and driven into a charge.
  • Deng banks in a three.  They’ll obviously need bounces like that without Rose in the lineup.
  • This crowd is absolutely electric and the Bulls are responding.

    Mar 14, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) is defended by Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng (9) in the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

  • Great starts for both LeBron and Wade.  Each is 2-2 from the field.
  • LeBron is in a zone.  Deng defended him perfectly in the post and he hit a tough baseline fadeaway anyway.
  • No team has two better wing defenders than Chicago in Deng and Brewer.  Except maybe Miami, that is.
  • Chicago 13, Lebron/Wade 12 with 4:43 left in first quarter.
  • Wade’s improvement at the free throw line isn’t discussed enough, but you can bet it will be when the postseason rolls around and he’s living at the stripe.
  • Not only was was Haslem in the restricted area on that charge, it was a clear flop and Watson made contact after the he passed the ball.  Awful, awful call.
  • Miami’s gone to LeBron or Wade in the post on every possession but the opening one.  They’re so dominant down there with their quickness, strength, and shot-making.
  • LeBron/Wade 19, Chicago 15.
  • As much praise as we give LeBron, we don’t talk enough about how smart he is.  Slipped a screen very early to fool his defender and got an open 12 footer.
  • 14 for LeBron on 6-8.  They’re going to him in the post more often than the Magic do Dwight Howard.
  • Gibson’s hit two open mid-range jumpers since coming off the bench.  Would love to see what he could do as a starter.
  • LeBron missed his final three shots of the quarter all on its final possession.  LeBron and Wade have all of Miami’s 23.  They lead the Bulls by four.
Second Quarter:
  • Jimmy Butler’s form looks good, but it’s hard to imagine him ever being a solid shooter with that amazingly low arc.
  • Whoa.  Taj drives the middle and throws it down.  Boozer’s obviously been much improved this season, but I still maintain the Bulls look better when the former’s on the floor.
  • Hardly shocking, but the Bulls bench has totally changed this game, and they lead 26-25 as a result.
  • So the Matchup to Watch is either going very well or very poorly depending on if your glass if half full or empty.  Bosh has been totally invisible except as a liability on the boards.  Tough to imagine Miami winning this one if he keeps this up.
  • And boom, Bosh gets the and-1 over both Gibson and Asik.  About time.
  • This one’s getting kind of chippy and it’s awesome.

    Mar 5, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward Tyler Hansbrough (center) fights for a rebound with Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik (left) and forward Taj Gibson (right) during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls won 92-72. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

  • Tough not to root for John Lucas.  He tries so, so hard.
  • Gibson and Asik are winning this game for the Bulls.  How many times have we said that over the least year and a half? Absolutely love those guys.
  • Spoelstra needs to get LeBron back out there.  Miami’s lost on both ends.  34-28 Chicago.
  • Guy with a “FUK LBJ” shirt in “RUN DMC” style in the crowd.  Cool.
  • Asik forces Wade into a miss, gets offensive rebound and feeds Korver for a three.  I need to invent the stat that gets him five points for that sequence.
  • The Bulls have 22 bench points.  ”But they have no talent! Rose is all by himself! MVP!!!!!!!” As All-Star Deng hits a three to make it 40-27.
  • Noah with a left-handed smash(!) over Anthony after blocking Wade on the other end.  Crowd is going absolutely wild and rightfully so.
  • Times like these are when I think Thibodeau belongs in the discussion with Popovich as the league’s best coach.  As I said, the Bulls have an underrated amount of talent, but he’s undeniably influential on their success.
  • All isolation for Miami right now.  That’s a Thibodeau defense, alright.
  • Chicago is moving the ball so well on offense.  You don’t see this when Rose is in the lineup.
  • Wade can’t catch a break right now and he’s frustrated as hell.  As he should be.  The Heat are lifeless.
  • Lucas has hit three jumpers on successive possessions to give the Bulls a 50-34 lead.  If this was against any other team, this one would be over.  That’s what makes Miami so great, obviously.
  • Performances like this are why people doubt the Heat so much.  There’s a feeling you just wouldn’t see this out of teams like the Bulls or Thunder.
  • LeBron with an epic finish on the break off a lob from Chalmers.  Then he gets a steal and Lucas draws a charge.  That’s a great example of a referee being influenced by the crowd/situation.  Hubie disagrees, but that’s a poor call.
  • And Spoelstra gets a technical as a result.  Huge sequence there.  Miami finally had the bounce back in their step.
  • LeBron showing why he should win DPOY as he guards Noah on one possession, then Lucas the next and blocks a shot.
  • Chicago leads Miami 53-42 at halftime.  LeBron went on a mini-run to end the half and it’s a good thing he did or this one would be a lot worse.
Unsurprisingly, the Bulls bench is the big story here.  They’ve combined for 31 points compared to two for their Miami counterparts.  Lucas has 11 of those points, but the play of Gibson and Asik is what really sparked Chicago.  They got every rebound and changed every shot they could.  LeBron has 20 and Wade’s got 13, but the latter really struggled in the second quarter.  If Miami can’t get more from their ancillary parts as the game goes, it’s tough to see how they’ll win this one.
Third Quarter:
  • I forgot how much longer it takes to sautee a full chicken breast than chicken tenderloins, and I missed the beginning of the half as a result.  ****.  Never again.  This is the first time I’ve been glad Rose isn’t playing.

    Mar 14, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) drives past Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh (1) in the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

  • 53-46 Bulls.  I missed a mini Miami run, apparently.
  • Bosh is intimidated by the Bulls.  It’s that simple.
  • It seems like LeBron has seven steals, but the box score says he has two.  Bull****.
  • No team scrambles on defense better than the Heat.  So quick and agile at every position.
  • Awful sequence for Bosh.  Hits the underneath of the rim on a reverse layup, then gets pick-pocketed on the break after a steal.  Something’s got to give here.  There’s no way he can continue to play this poorly against Chicago.
  • The ball moves so much slower for Chicago’s starters than their reserves.
  • By the way, are there two more awkward celebrators than Bosh and Boozer? Those primal yells just don’t work for them and they refuse to acknowledge it.
  • Chicago’s weathered the early Miami storm and is back up by 11 mid-way through the third.
  • 3 Pointers: Chicago 8-11, Miami 0-1
  • Bulls 74 Heat 57
  • Chalmers has been poor on both ends tonight.  He’s really struggled of late after a great first couple months of the season.
  • …and then he picks up two quick fouls guarding the ball.
  • 30 for LeBron on 12-20.  Ho-hum.
  • Deng, predictably, has been all over him.  He’s just hit some very, very tough shots.
  • LeBron’s hit two three pointers to cut it to 10 with a minute left in the quarter.
  •  81-70 Bulls at the end of the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter:

  • Where’s Dwyane Wade? Been very, very quiet since the first quarter.

    Credit to Anthony Bain.

  • Miami opens the quarter with both LeBron and Wade on the bench.  Interesting strategy.
  • Watson/Lucas have been far better than Chalmers/Cole tonight, and it’s made a huge, huge difference.
  • Butler has the length and quickness to give Chicago another elite defender.  Just what the rest of the league needs.
  • 85-75 Bulls.
  • This 8:30 central start time has me confused.  It’s 10:45 and I’m watching an eastern conference game on national television.  Weird.
  • Miami’s down eight with the ball.  Chicago better be careful.
  • Thiboadeau brings back the starting five except for Watson.  And Lucas promptly hits another three.
  • Wade hits his sixth three pointer of the season.
  • Bosh :(
  • He’s 3-15.
  • Lucas is in another world right now.  He’s got 20 on 8-10, hitting threes, runners, pull-ups, everything.
  • Not even LeBron can stop the hurricane that is John Lucas III.  Latter took former off the dribble then hit a wild fadeaway in his face.
  • 96-88 Bulls with 3:32 left.
  • Wade’s off-hand is the most underrated in the league, and he’s used it more than ever this season.
  • Wade gets a lay-up off the LeBron steal.  92-92 Bulls.
  • LeBron and Scottie joking during a dead ball.  Cool.
  • My god Bosh has been awful.  Just allowed Noah an easy offensive rebound and put-back. Seriously, he’s scared of the Bulls.
  • Wade’s answered my call and been absolutely ridiculous in the fourth quarter.  He suddenly has 34.
  • And Wade hits a crazy 21-footer off the dribble to cut it to four with 1:15 left.
  • Bad shot for Miami that time.  Wade took several dribbles then heaved a tough three.
  • Brewer gets an offensive rebound, and the Bulls are forced to foul, down four points, with 17.2 seconds left.
  • What a great effort from the Bulls.
  • James Jones has hit two threes to make it a two point game with six seconds left.  What a shooter.
  • It’s all for naught, though, as Lucas ends it with two at the line.
Final Score: Chicago 106 Miami 102

Reaction: These teams will say this game doesn’t matter when they meet in the postseason, and for the most part they’ll be right.  What happened on a Wednesday night in mid-March will have absolutely no bearing on a series between Chicago and Miami should they meet in the playoffs like we all expect.  Still, there are a few things to take from this, most notably the struggles of Chris Bosh.  I highlighted his performance as one to watch before the game, and was right in saying his play would have a major impact on the outcome of this game.  He was dismal on both ends of the floor, and was consistently bullied and overpowered by the Chicago frontcourt.  Unfortunately, the awesome performance of John Lucas won’t matter in the scheme of things, as he seems firmly entrenched in his position as Chicago’s third string point guard.  The Bulls no doubt should be thrilled with getting a win against Miami.  But don’t be fooled – this was just an outlying preview to what should be an epic eastern conference finals.

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