It really is a contrast in styles at this point. It was somewhat evident last year, but the Rose MVP talk mitigated the stark contrast somewhat. It’s pretty clear now though, the Heat are cutting a path of destruction through the NBA, they aren’t quite an unstoppable force and there are some dents in the chassis, but the Miami machine is a sleek one.

LBJ-Wade-Bosh still need to figure out who’s taking the shot in the closing minutes, but most nights it simply doesn’t matter. They can annihilate a team in 3 quarters and make the 4th irrelevant. Yeah, Wade is a step slower, but he’s still a top 5 player. He’s shooting 50% from the floor this year as a guard, which is pretty hard to do. LeBron is having a historic season and Bosh is finally doing some of the dirty work that Heat fans have been begging him to do since the free agency coup of the century.

The Bulls grind their way to victory. Every night is a seemingly maximum effort affair in which the Bulls outwork and outhustle their opponents. This was clearly evident in Monday’s tilt against the Knicks. The Bulls had significantly less talent on the floor than NY did. Deng-Rip-CJ were all hurt and the Knicks still boast a trio of Chandler-Melo-Stoudamire that should have been enough to beat the Rose-led Bulls.

Chicago works hard on the boards, Taj had a great hustle night even if his shooting numbers weren’t there. Rose had a productive night despite spotty shooting and carelessness with the rock. The Bulls grind, and even though the defense wasn’t great on the whole, they looked great in spots. Butler’s work on Melo was surprising and important. Lin was not shut down, but he was limited as the Bulls dared him to dribble with his left hand all night.

The Heat crush opponents with flashy play, the Bulls pound opponents into submission with tough defense and #1 shredding defenses.

Something’s gotta give tonight.

Pregame Music

[youtube http://youtu.be/2Q9WDaCVDe8]

Yeah, basketball is usually associated with Hip-Hop/Rap, but Bulls/Heat sounds like metal to me. I can imagine a mash up of LBJ/Rose highlights set to this track for some reason. I feel like it fits.

What To Pay Attention To

  • What do the Bulls do when LBJ guards Rose? Who is the second option with the gimpy unit they are running out there?
  • Deng and his wrist. How will it affect his defense and his shot. He can be deadly from the mid range, and if it’s hurting him badly, it could spell disaster for the Bulls.
  • Will Boozer get anything going towards the rim tonight? He’s the ultimate wildcard in all of this. If he can manage to have a decent stretch against the Heat, it could mean the difference between winning and losing. He’s in love with the fade away, and it needs to stop.
  • Will the Bulls use zone? We know it’s somewhat effective against the Heat, but Thibs doesn’t use it often. Theory is that Thibs wants to limit the tape the Heat have on the Bulls zone D, and Thibs generally doesn’t use zone anyway.
  • What’s LBJ up to in the 4th quarter? Is he being passive and deferential? Is he slinking in the corner, letting Wade carry the offensive workload? What’s underrated about LeBron is his clutch defense. He’s a bulldog on the defensive end.
  • What the hell is Thibs gonna pull out of his ass this time? The Knicks game was a coaching clinic with the cross match ups on offense and defense. Thibs is maximizing his roster in very interesting ways lately. He’s turning in another solid year as a coach.
  • Will the Bulls stop taking quick shots early in the shot clock? This is an issue against a team that loves to run, like Miami. Married to this point are the turnovers. The Bulls need to value the basketball to win this game. If they don’t it can get ugly.

The Edges

PG – Rose v. Chalmers

This ain’t close. Rose is clearly better than Chalmers offensively, and is fairly close to him defensively. Rose doesn’t get the steals that Mario does, but he plays the type of defense Thibs requires of him. Chalmers is a fine NBA PG, but he’s not on the level that Rose is. The Bulls have the clear edge here.

SG – Brewer v. Wade

Brewer is a decent defender. He has good length and he’s quick on his feet. He won’t shut Wade down, I don’t think, but he should be able to do yeoman’s work on him. I don’t expect Wade to have a big night, but he’s still dangerous when he wants to be. Brewer needs to find offense to close the gap. His game is inconsistent at best. There have been stretches where his 3 pt. shot looks solid, and then the arc on his ball goes flat and he can’t buy a bucket. Brewer is a solid finisher, but he’s no Wade. The Heat have a clear edge here.

SF – Deng v. James

Deng’s hurt. I don’t know how it will affect his defense, but we’ve seen what it can do to his jumpshot. The wrist is a serious concern, and you have to wonder how much he’ll want to test it against 275 lbs of LBJ. I think they have to force the ball Wade’s way early in the game if they can. Somehow. It’s unlikely, but it’s a thought. James is an absolute match up nightmare. He can defend all 5 positions on the floor, against the Lakers he went from defending Gasol, to Bynum, to Kobe. That’s ridiculous and scary. The Heat have a huge edge here.

PF – Boozer v. Bosh

Lord Boozington sucks defensively. This is not breaking news. I would put Jo on Bosh and let Boozer flail at Haslem for 25ish minutes and let Taj do the dirty work. Boozer needs to get moving to the basket more often, that jumpshot is going to get swatted by James more often than not. If Booze gets hot, James will guard him. I don’t see it happening, Boozer has difficulty guarding anything, and his offense struggles against height and size. And talent, can’t forget that he does poorly against talent. Bosh is enigmatic, but he can still put up good numbers offensively. The Heat have an edge here.

C – Noah v. Haslem

Noah is back to being the loveable grinder that we grew to appreciate. I wasn’t sure about him when he was drafted, but he changed my mind. Haslem looks much better without the braids, his game is funky, but all he needs to be is a solid interior defender and a sometimes offensive option. Noah is better, but if Haslem gets hot, it creates a problem. Noah can only guard one person at a time, and Boozer can’t guard a damn thing. The Bulls have the edge here.

Bench – The Bench Mob v. The Extras From Miami Vice

You know, the Miami bench is actually better this year. Battier is a good addition, Mike Miller is playing better, Norris Cole was a fine draft pick, but the Bulls bench is still better. The gap has closed a bit in this department, and it’s closer still with Watson hurt and Korver losing his jumper for spots, but this is still an edge for the Bulls. If Deng can’t play heavy minutes, the Bulls bench will be tested to the max. Korver and Brewer are not an effective defensive tandem. Jimmy Butler had a good game against the Knicks, but he’s still a relatively unknown commodity. Asik will be huge, ditto with Taj in this game.

Synopsis And Predicted Outcome

The Bulls are underdogs in this match up. The Heat have the better starters, and depth only matters so much. The Bulls will have to play a brilliant defensive game to win tonight. The offense needs to find easy buckets somehow, and it’s clearly not coming through Boozer. Rose can get to the rack, but for some reason he’s hesitant to do so against the Heat. Miami has a real ass team now, and it’s going to be hard to win this game. I do predict a Heat win, but it’s not impossible for the Bulls. In the regular season, funny things can happen. If the Bulls win, it won’t change much. Ditto if they lose. Perhaps they can find some confidence in beating this team, but it’s more of a hope than anything. I hope they win, I hope Boozer gets his head out of his ass, I hope Deng escapes with his health and I hope Rose gets over his “fear” of the Heat.

It’s gonna be a bitch though.

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