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16 May 2011

The keys to a still-young series.

The Chicago Bulls lead the Miami Heat 1-0 in their Eastern Conference Finals match-up.

A lot of experts and pundits alike picked the Heat to win this series and seemed to be writing off the Bulls' chances before the opening tip. Now, these same people are having to revise their opinions quite drastically after Chicago dished out a 21-point battering on a flat-looking Heat squad.

The Bulls certainly played their best ball of this post-season following on from a high performance in Game 6 of the previous series. However, they won't play quite as well again in this series one would expect as the Bulls' bench brought Chicago an incredible advantage for Game 1.

You could also expect that Lebron James and Dwyane Wade will not combine for only 33 points again in this series, they will both go on to have a huge game themselves that could provide the scoring needed to overcome a smothering Bulls' defense. It's not even like Miami shot poorly (47%), even shooting better than the home team's 43%. It was the rebounding that killed the Heat in this one. Out-rebounded 45-33 in the game, 19-6 on the offensive end. Though rebounding was a major issue for the Heat in the season-series between this pair: 131-99 Bulls in 3 games.

Keys to the Series:


1. Limit the Bulls rebounding. Rebounding was the killer in this game and it has been all season against Chicago. Their rebounders need to do a better job of getting themselves between the ball and Bulls' players crashing the boards. Easier said than done, but the Heat went small in Game 1 as Ilgauskas and Dampier weren't even in uniform. Expect at least one of them to be activated for Wednesday night.

2. Get into the paint. Chicago also did a good little number on Wade and James as they struggled to get into the lane for easy points and had to settle for contested jump-shots. Bosh was left alone by his defender and Miami did do a good job of finding him inside.

3. Move the ball. Wade and Lebron tend to play a lot of isolated, 1-vs-1 plays that rely on themselves only. This plays right into the hands of a Bulls defense built on stopping this sort of play. Miami had very few assists and this contributed to their downfall. If they can move the ball more they can move the Bulls out of that defensive shell around the paint, opening up space for Lebron and Wade to get into the paint.

1. Limit Turnovers/fast-break points. If the Bulls hadn't committed 8 first-half turnovers, this game would have been a non-contest at half time. The Heat's offense is unstoppable in the open court, they scored their first 4 points on fast-break dunks that looked to set the tone for a long night for Bulls' fans.

2. If you're name is Rose, get to the rim. Derrick Rose took a lot more jump shots than viewers are used to seeing. He needs to do a better job of getting into the paint. When he gets into the paint, the defense collapses around him and this opens up the outside shooters the Bulls have enough of to be dangerous. Another plus of this defensive collapse is that the Bulls can crash the boards so much easier. Rose also attempted just 6 free-throws although this was a game-high. (Wade and James had 4 each).

3. Get more from Boozer. Boozer may have had a good game on first viewing. 14 points though is not his real level. Luol Deng won't be going off for 21 points every game so Boozer's offense becomes that much more important especially considering the Chicago bench won't be scoring just as much again either.

I still stick by my prediction of the Bulls in 7 as the Heat have enough talent to win at least their home games. I think the Bulls team-oriented style will beat the Heat's individual-oriented style: when James and Wade don't get their points the Heat have very few alternatives to ask to make up the difference.


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