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Thursday, May 19, 2011

BULLS VS HEAT: What we Know so far

While the point spreads are a bit surprising, the 1-1 result after 2 games, not surprising. I called for a tough, hard fought series that would go the full 7 and I fully expect to get that. Game 1 was an aberration, Game 2 more of the reality (no Heat fans, not conceding victory to you). So let's take a look at what 7 things we know so far

1. Despite having 3 of the 5 best players in the NBA on the floor, and 2 All-Star:  Points are at a premium. I hope people enjoyed the 102 the Bulls put in Game 1, because I predict you won't see 90 again the rest of the series. The Bulls length on the interior bothers the Heat in halfcourt and the Heat is the better perimeter defense. The two best defensive teams in the league will take turns frustrating and disrupting each other. whoever can knock down TIMELY (not necessarily a lot) shots will win the series

2. LBJ becoming a consistant closer is trouble:  Game 2 was an example of what superstars do, if the game is close, down the stretch your star player will pull you through. The big 3's LBJ hit in Boston may have been the start of his growth as closer along with best player. If he gets this down pat, everyone is in trouble

3. Carlos Boozer has to showup: Chicago talk shows have been filled with "Bring Boozer off the bench". I try to not attach salary to a player's criticism but for $80million dollars this is a ridiculous statement. The Bulls cannot beat Heat or win an NBA championship getting 7 and 8 from Boozer. His toe and thumb are legitimate injuries but he has to give you more than that. Like the old adage: can't live with him, can't live without him. Taj Gibson and Omer Asik are nice stories and fill their roles, neither resembles a go-to guy which is what Boozer has to be.

4. Nice game Udonis Haslem but: I still don't know if he or any of other Heat supporting cast can play that way more than once in a series. The fourth man as mentioned in previous blog cannot be by committee. The Bulls still have the depth advantage in this series.

5. I still like Thibs better but Spolestra can coach: made a couple of nice lineup adjustments and was able to get  Rose to defend Wade on one end by playing Mike Miller more which also made Heat bigger and better matchups on glass. Heat out-rebounded Bulls by 4 in Game 2.

6. It starts and ends with D-Rose: You can break this down a myriad of ways but there is one concrete truth in this series. If Derrick Rose goes 7 for 23, the Bulls cannot beat this heat team. He is the one player in this series who is most responsible for outcome of any one game.  For the most part, he was able to get into lane but didnt convert, he also failed to get back in transition and gave up three "and 1" opportunities. Its a heavy load to carry for a 6-2, 22 yr old but when you are MVP, this is your charge. Three days off between days will do all players some good, D-Rose probably the most

7.  Neither fan base should get to chirpy: This series has almost 2 more weeks to it, game 7 wouldn't be held until May 30. There are plenty of more ups and downs, twists and turns ahead. Buckle up folks, We have a series on our hand.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Just a Friendly Debate

On the eve of the much anticipated Chicago vs Miami ECF, i hooked up with my fellow Hoop Addict and Avid Fan, Reservoir God from the Miami Heat Index for a little friendly debate. For those you on twitter , you can catch him at MIA_Heat_Index and me at bigshotron. Let the games begin!!

From: Big Shot Ron
First and Foremost, let me start this off by saying how much I am looking forward to a classic series with your Heat. 3 great players in their prime in Rose, James, Wade. Boozer and Bosh, while flawed, All-Star players in their own right. I congratulate you on vanquishing Celtics to help the changing of the guard in the NBA. This has the makings of the Celtics-Pistons series of the late 80s. While I wasn't a big fan of The Decision, this is how it should be. So now that we got all of the pleasantries out of the way. Let me respectfully tell you why the Bulls will win this series in 7 games. Don't worry, when this is over I will make your "Not Walking through That Door" list is as buster-free. I am fully confident we won't have a repeat of Bulls-Magic in '96 or Lakers-Spurs in '01 and should be a lot of fun. Now let’s get to why the Bulls will advance
1. Who is the 4th man? We know about DW3, LBJ, and the oft-criticized and Bosh but as I look at the rest of your roster. I don't see a Jeff Teague, JJ Berea who steps up and plays well for what should be a 6 or 7 game series. The Bulls are too good on defense, too well coached, too deep for you all to beat us 4 times with 3 guys getting 70% of the points. Do you believe Chalmers, James Jones, or the oft injured Mike Miller has it in them to come up big? I don't
2.  I like Spolestra, I like Thibs better:  There is a reason that such a "limited" offensive team hasn't lost two games in a row all season. No coach in the NBA has been better at game to game adjustments and maximizing talent than the Coach of the Year. He has pulled the trigger and made the right move every time. Despite this being his first year in the big chair, he has a wealth of deep playoff experience which has balanced out Bulls relative lack of experience. I trust he finds a way to limit Wade and Bosh (not stop) enough and put it the hands of Bosh and someone else
3.  And speaking of Bosh:  He spoke after game 3 in Boston of being overwhelmed by the nerves and the moment of that game. Now we are in Conference Finals, a place he has never been, the moments are only going to be bigger. He has the talent but does he have the stomach for it? When that United Center crowd is seeing red, will he be able to stand up?  For the Heat to beat us, the BIG 3 are going to have to be great almost every game, and can't afford Bosh to 'no-show' more than once. In the back of a lot of Heat fans min, they are wondering about him. And with good reason
4.  It’s not a question of Can you stop Rose:  No one in the league can do that, when he is hitting the J, Rose (along with Dirk) are unguardable. My question to you Mr. Reservoir is not Can You Stop Rose but who do you play on him? Do you risk wearing out Wade? Do you give Mario Chalmers 30-35 min a game with Bibby as the figurehead starter? Questions with not a lot of great answers. Your Heat are a terrific defensive team and in the last meeting in March played Rose well down the stretch but now you have to come up with an answer for 6 and 7 games. So who's it going to be?
5. Finally, there is No place like Home:  This series will be sliced and diced by all the experts. I know you got metrics from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale on how Heat wins this. With all of that being said, my final point is that I do not believe the Heat can beat the Bulls in the United Center.  Yes, Heat won game 4 in Boston and LBJ closed game 5 in big-time fashion but that was a worn-down, tired Boston and it doesn't erase all the of the Heat's struggles to close games (although end of game execution will be crucial). This is the toughest place to win in the NBA and while the Heat's 28-13 on the road is nothing to sneeze at. I like our chances in Miami a lot more than yours in the United Center.

To: Big Shot Ron (http://bigshotron.blogspot.com/)
You're right about one thing, Ron - this is how it should be. The only things that could make this playoff run better for the Miami Heat would have been beating the New York Knicks in the first round and then have the Los Angeles Lakers waiting for them in the NBA Finals after running through the Chicago Bulls. That's right, I said it. "Running through the Chicago Bulls." Let me address your five points to illustrate how it will be done...
1. Who cares about the 4th man? One of the biggest myths in the NBA is that depth matters. The Pareto Principle rules the NBA. Eighty percent of wins in the league are produced by 20 percent of the players, which means three players on each team. The Spurs, Celtics and Lakers just dominated the previous era of the NBA with three players and it will be no different for the Three Kings in Miami. Of course, I understand why Bulls fans would want to dismiss this notion - it doesn't work so well for their teamBut if Dwyane Wade,LeBron James and Chris Bosh aren't enough for you to worry about, then I'll give you two more players that could be the fourth man to keep Tom Thibodeau up at night - Mario Chalmers and Joel "The Warden" Anthony. I'll address Chalmers a little later so let's focus on The Warden for now. He was the fourth most productive Heat player in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and he'll give Carlos Boozer nightmares when he locks him down in the Eastern Conference Finals.
2. Spoelstra > Thibs, but coaches rarely matter: Coaching is one of the most overrated factors in basketball. Yes, Thibodeau was anointed Coach of the Year by the Dead Basketball Poets Society, but the fact of the matter is that he had little to do with that. The players on the Bulls' roster performed just as well as they did last season when Thibodeau wasn't their coach. The exception is Derrick Rose, who improved because that's what young players do. The only thing coaches have a direct impact on is how many minutes their players gets. Thibs only gave 61 percent of the available minutes to the most productive Bulls players at each position (PG - Rose, SG - Brewer, SF - Deng, PF - Gibson, C - Noah). Spoelstra played his five best players for 73 percent of the minutes available (PG - Chalmers, SG - Wade, SF - James, PF - Bosh, C - Anthony). Thibs' 10-player rotation is about two players too long and will cost the Bulls in this series.
3. Welcome to The Bosh Pit: Bosh just finished going toe-to-toe with Kevin Garnett and outplayed him. KG's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Boozer? He's just a two-time all-star with a measly seven percent chance to make the Hall of Fame. Bosh will be up to the challenge, but it won't be coming from Boozer. He'll have to get it done with Joakim Noah guarding him. Noah's a great defender, but as my man Alfredo Arteaga said on the Miami Heat Talk podcast, KG may be the best defensive power forward of all-time. And if you think he's washed up, well, he finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and second in Defensive Win SharesJoakim Noah finished 15th in the DPoY voting and 28th in Defensive Win Shares. Bosh will roar in this series.
4. Who will stop Rose? Three words - Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk: Chalmers has had Rose's number ever since he sank a cold-blooded three in his face after Rose choked at the free throw line with the 2008 National Championship at stake. Win Score is the statistical model I use to measure player performance. It gives players credit for points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks and debits them for turnovers, fouls and missed shots. Based on Win Score, Chalmers has outplayed Rose six times in nine head-to-head matchups. If you don't like Win Score we can use the NBA Efficiency ratingHoopsstats.com tracks head-to-head matchups for all players based on the NBA Efficiency rating used by NBA.com. Chalmers had a higher NBA Efficiency rating than Rose in five of their nine matchups and tied with him once. Chalmers is the easy answer to the question, "who will play Rose?" He'll go under screens and the Heat will force Rose to shoot over the top. The question is whether Rose will be able to match Chalmers jumper-for-jumper. Rose shot 38 percent from 16-23 feet and his shooting efficiency from three-point land was 49.8 percent. Chalmers shot 45 percent from 16-23 feet and his shooting efficiency behind the arc was 53.9 percent.
5. It's Oprah's house, the Bulls are just visiting: You don't believe the Heat can beat the Bulls in the United Center? Didn't I just see the mediocre Atlanta Hawks walk out of there with a win almost two weeks ago? Surely you believe the Heat are a better team than the Hawks. It may be tough to book a date in the United Center (unless you work for Harpo Studios), but I don't see the Heat having a problem winning there. As for the Bulls winning in Miami, there are only two teams left in the playoffs that are undefeated at home - the Heat and the Mavericks.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Its not our NBA anymore

Dallas's 36-point thrashing of the Lakers in Game 4 completed a stunning four-game sweep of the Lakers. Many said Dallas was a bad matchup and with the seven footers to matchup with LA's height and the Rubix Cube that is Dirk Nowitzki. Even with 3-0 lead for Dallas, i still held out "hope" that LA still had that swagger to make a run out of it. A barrage of Dallas 3's in 2nd quarter quickly snuffed that out. Combined with Memphis 4-2 beating of the Spurs, the changing of the guard in the NBA is fully upon us. In the playoff preview, i picked Miami in Boston over 5 mostly because of the overwhelming athleticism of James, Wade, and Joel Anthony on the interior (yes i forgot Bosh, because he is forgettable).  The Celtics, Lakers, Spurs are a now a thing of the past as constiuted. The league has become a league of athleticism, quickness, and speed. The Hawks have evened the series with the Bulls because they have three athletic mismatches with J-Smooth, JJ2, and Jeff Teague. Nothing to do with better coaching and certainly nothing to do with the Hawks style of play which is erratic at best.  Lakers were swept because they could do nothing with JJ Berea, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry in pick and roll and transition. Lakers were too slow of foot on both ends of the floor and couldn't defend the dribble drive and kick. Grizzlies defeated Spurs and could beat Thunder is because of their ability to run the floor and use their strength.

With new rules legislating  hand and arm use on defense, the evolution of athletes, teams can't just "run their system" and win games. There is still room for The Triangle (LA), the second round steal (Spurs), and veteran toughness (Celtics) but when it comes down to it, the future of the NBA is a league that is getting younger and younger. Derrick Rose at 22 is the MVP. Durant, Westbrook, Howard, James, Rondo are all 26 and under. The pace of the game is faster, the athletes are better and while your veteran stars are still capable of "flashbacks", it doesn't happen as often. 5 years ago, Kobe would have eaten alive Jarrett Jack or  an old Jason Kidd but his body just wont allow it. KG is as capbable of going for  7pts and 8 reb as he is 26 and 14.

As a fan, its great to see the league with so many good young players and change is good but there is a certain adjustment now to watching the turnover in talent.