Fans circled this game on their calendar when the schedule was first announced. The chance to play against the Miami Heat. The discussion over the way the three handled free agency has built up a hatred of the three from most cities, especially the ones who had a chance to acquire them like Chicago.
After a rough start, Miami has rounded into championship form despite injuries to Udanis Haslem and Mike Miller. I personally am taking Miami over the field when it comes to the NBA title this year.
The Bulls have their work cut out for them missing Joakim Noah as his presence in the middle is one of the things the Heat would have a hard time compensating for on both ends of the floor.
--- update --
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said James didn't participate in the
team's morning shoot-around and was "doubtful" for the Bulls game
because of the ankle sprain he suffered in Wednesday's loss to the
Clippers in Los Angeles.
"He did not go through the shootaround,"
Spoelstra said. "We have not ruled him out. But it is doubtful. He is
feeling better. He's going to come over on the first bus, get treatment,
try to loosen it up. And we'll make that determination then."
Keys to the game
Derrick Rose wants to be MVP? Time to prove it.
Bulls fans have been calling Rose MVP all season, Rose announced he
wanted to be the MVP in preseason. Well, he's going up against two of
the best players in the NBA tonight, and he'd better bring it.
In Rose's favor is the fact that the Heat don't have a lot of interior
help defense, so he should have plenty of success driving the paint.
Rose is going to need to carry this team to help bring a win in.
Carlos Boozer needs to play physical on both ends of the court
Chris Bosh is a great player, but if he has one weakness it's his lack of physical play. Carlos Boozer needs to play physical on both ends of the court and take the 'want-to' out of Bosh.
A few elbows on offense while backing Bosh down and some physical box outs can go a long way towards helping neutralize one of the big three from the game.
Start Ronnie Brewer
Okay, we know it's not going to happen, but for the Bulls to defend the Heat they need to maximize Brewer's defense. 100% of his minutes need to be while Wade on the floor. They'd probably be best served playing Brewer 36+ minutes tonight unless he's limited by foul trouble.
They also don't want to play him those 36 minutes in two stretches which is what would happen if they play Bogans the first six minutes of each quarter prior to subbing him for Brewer.
Will the Bulls make the decision to bench Bogans? Unlikely. However, they're putting themselves at an extreme disadvantage by not doing so.
Role players need to step up
Kyle Korver, you'd better be knocking down your shots tonight. C.J Watson, you'd best be at your best. Taj Gibson, you'd better find the offense you've been missing lately.
The Bulls aren't likely to win on star power. They need to get contributions from all the other players on both ends of the court.
It's not a true test of the two teams while the Bulls don't have Joakim Noah, but it's still a statement game that I'm sure both teams want badly. It's hard for me to see the Bulls winning this one (assuming LeBron plays as expected), but any night, anything can happen.
Hopefully the UC brings it and plays the role of 6th man tonight.