Sunday, May 15, 2011

ECF Predicton/Preview: Bulls vs Heat

After what was a promising round of predictions in the first round, the Conference semifinals in the East panned out pretty disastrously, with my being way off base with the Celtics (although to be fair, I didn't expect Rondo to suffer an injury in game 3) although I wasn't too far off with the Bulls, who managed to close it out on the road.

However, what's past is past, so on to the next round, where my personal loyalty to the teams remaining is watered down somewhat now that the Celtics are gone.

#1 Chicago Bulls vs #2 Miami Heat:
It's fitting I suppose that the 1 and 2 seed battle it out in the ECF, even if it comes at the expense of my beloved Celtics. But again, moving on haha. Now, even though the Bulls beat the Heat 3 times in the regular season without dropping a game, the Heat have become a whole different kettle of fish since the playoffs started. That Boston series galvanised them and they have just been dominant. A lot of people who know me will call me a Heat hater, because I talk about how they sucked against +.500 teams, and said that D-Wade was better than Lebron (something I stand by), but really, I was just in denial. I don't hate the Heat because they are overrated, I hate them because it's hard to conceive of any of the current teams beating them in a seven-game series. But let's have a look at why;

  • Key Matchups;
    • Deng vs Lebron: Deng has established himself as one of the premier defenders at the SF position, and for the Bulls to have any hope, he'll have to hold Lebron down and force Wade to carry the burden of scoring with little help.
    • Rose vs Miami: The Heat are going to throw a bunch of defenders at Rose, and likely double-team him a lot, so it's hard to isolate just one player he'll match up with. As Rose goes, the Bulls go. However, Wade is a consummate defender (arguably the best guard defender in the game) and should limit Rose's effectiveness.
    • Boozer vs Bosh: This one is big, because Boozer has struggled at times, particularly in the post-season, but Bosh isn't featured in the offense of the Heat as much. If Boozer can overcome Bosh's improved defensive mindset and take some of the scoring load off Rose's shoulders, the Bulls will be the first team to win more than a game against them in the playoffs.
  • X-Factor: Kyle Korver. Ashton had a bit of a down game in the closing game against the Hawks, but he'll need to be at his sharp-shooting best to break apart the great defensive schemas of the Heat.
  • Most Interesting sub-plot: Thus far the Heat have been spared a game-winner to decide it all, but who takes the last shot remains up in the air. Lebron got his clutch on by hitting dagger 3s against Boston, but Wade remains the more effortless scorer. Either way, that will be a pressure-laden moment when it likely comes against these Bulls.
As much as it pains me to say it, a switched on Lakers team was the only squad I'd call the favourite against the Heat, but with them knocked out it's probably going to be the first of many Heat titles this season, starting with a 4-3 win against the Bulls, who use their home-court advantage to the fullest, but ultimately stumble at the line.

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