MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Miami Heat now know they will be facing the Chicago Bulls for the right to play in the NBA Finals.
The Bulls finished off the Atlanta Hawks Thursday night in the other Eastern Conference semifinal matchup. The Heat had dispatched of the Boston Celtics the previous night in Miami.
Now, it will be a matchup of the best team in the regular season in the Eastern Conference, versus the Big Three of the Heat. More precisely, it will be NBA MVP Derrick Rose against the Heat’s Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh.
Only one person in playoff history has accounted for more plays being run through him than Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat in 2006. The difference between the two teams is that Wade also had Shaq giving him 20 and 10 a night; Rose has Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.
Speaking of Boozer, he will be playing through an injured foot, specifically turf toe. It has slowed him at times in the playoffs, but he’s come on as of late.
The only Heat injury is Udonis Haslem. Big UD is back playing, but is still shaking the rust off. If he can give the Heat 5-10 minutes and a few big rebounds, that’s more than a great return for him.
But the series will come down to one thing, defense. The Bulls had the best defense in the league during the regular season; while the Heat had the fifth best defense. But in the playoffs, the Heat’s defense has hit a new level and they will key on Rose.
The Heat will have the choice of letting Rose get his 30-40 points and shutting down the rest of the team, or they can cut off the head of the snake and make the rest of the team beat them.
For the Bulls, it’s going to be pick your poison. If they key on Wade, then LeBron will beat them off the dribble. If they key on LeBron, Wade will head to the basket. And if they try to go after both Wade and LeBron, Chris Bosh will be crucial to the gameplan.
Bosh often sets the screens to get the offense of the Heat moving. If he’s going to be in that role, he’s going to have to make the Bulls big men pay if they go too high to defend Wade or LeBron off the dribble around the screen.
Bosh will need to attack the basket and try to get Joakim Noah in early foul trouble. If the Heat can get to the line early and often, the Bulls have no chance against the Heat.
The Heat will likely have either Wade, LeBron, or Mario Chalmers become attached to the hip of Rose. Chalmers may be the early guy to harass Rose, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra put out a lineup that had James Jones in to help guard the small forward of the Bulls and free up Wade or Lebron to guard Rose as the game wears on.
The Heat also can’t forget about Kyle Korver coming off screens for the Bulls. He’s shown that he can hit key three pointers and the Heat will have to keep someone in his face at all times.
Spoelstra will have to have his bench ready to play as well. The Heat’s bench has been giving the team big minutes in the first few rounds of the playoffs. Jones has hit key threes several times, and Chalmers has been a defensive headache for opponents.
The Heat’s bench will need to help out on the boards as well. If Chicago can get lots of second-chance points, it’s going to be a problem for the Heat.
But when it comes to facing Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s defense, the Heat is already well-versed. The Celtics ran the exact same defense. While the Bulls are more athletic, the Heat knows how to attack the defense because they just faced it in the second round.
If you love basketball, this will be the series to watch. Despite Oprah throwing a wrench into the scheduling, it will be a great matchup between the two teams. Game 1 is Sunday in Chicago and tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m.
The series will return to the AmericanAirlines Arena starting next Sunday and Tuesday for Games 3 and 4.