The Chicago Bulls didn't play particularly well against the Toronto Raptors, in fact, they played more or less god awful. The team had to adjust to Joakim Noah coming back, and the offensive chemistry seemed to suffer somewhat of a hit early as they tried to get him involved in the offense while they could previously ignore Kurt Thomas.
Carlos Boozer turned in one of his classic defensive performances, and the rest of the team defense wasn't much better. The Bulls now get a chance to completely redeem themselves or enhance the 'sky is falling' mentality. This game might not explicitly be for the 1/2 seed in the playoffs, but it's going to be awfully hard to catch Miami/Boston if we lose and fall four back, so a win would be huge.
Keys to the game
Derrick Rose needs to prove why he's the MVP
I feel guilty lumping so much pressure on Rose, but if he wants to be the MVP, then he needs to play like the MVP in big games like this one. He did it against San Antonio, and Miami doesn't have a lot of interior defenders.
On the flip side, Miami has incredible perimeter athleticism with LeBron and Wade to help corral him. If Rose comes out big in this spot and leads the Bulls to victory on national TV against another elite team, then he'll solidify his MVP case as well as restore our shaken faith after the Bulls fell to the Raptors.
Carlos Boozer needs to convince Nike to take the cement out of his shoe line
He wasn't the only one, but Boozer's slow rotations stood out the most last night. The Heat are one of the best dribble penetration teams in the NBA, so they'll need Boozer to step up his defense considerably.
Boozer also needs to bring out his 'man' game against Chris Bosh. Bosh has length, but Boozer should be able to beat him up enough to keep him away from the basket and take him out of his game. If Boozer gets physical, he should provide the Bulls some great offense against the Heat.
Boozer probably needs to win this matchup against Bosh to give the Bulls a chance to win this game.
Luol Deng can't afford Carlos Boozer disease tonight
Deng's been a great perimeter defender all year round, but last night he really struggled to stay in front of his man. He seemed to twist his ankle early in the game, and I wonder if that was a factor later on.
Either way, the Bulls will need all the perimeter defense they can get against the Heat, so they'll need Deng playing at his best on defense.
Get Omer Asik some time instead of Kurt Thomas
The Bulls are going to need more paint protection and no low post threat protection. That means Omer Asik should play some more at center where the Bulls will need athleticism more than strength.
Get Korver some shots when you play him
You can't play Kyle Korver for nearly 20 minutes and only get him two looks. He's not good enough defensively to be on the court that long if he's not providing more of a threat on offense.
This is especially true against the Miami Heat who have tremendous perimeter athleticism to exploit his weaknesses defensively. I look for Bogans/Brewer to play a bit more in this game because of that, but when Korver's on the floor make sure to look for him, or run plays where his spacing opens up the floor for you.
A marquee game on the trade deadline, what more could you ask for as a Bulls fan? I guess a win and O.J. Mayo/Courtney Lee. If the Bulls drop this game, they're likely out of the fight for the one and two seeds in the playoffs. They have a strong lead for the three seed, and it could actually mostly lock them into third baring an utter collapse.