The Chicago Bulls square off against the Miami Heat in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals. So far, everyone has discussed what a long and tough series this is going to be, but like every series, the team facing an 0-1 deficit is in dire straights entering game two.
If Chicago pulls off the win, Miami's odds of coming back in the series are quite long. If Miami pulls off the win, then they had back home with home court advantage in a five game series and gain a slight edge over Chicago.
LeBron making excuses? emulating Jordan? am I hypercritical?
He told reporters that he's been fighting a cold for three days, and he's taking every medication they sell at 7-11. First, you might want to make it out to a pharmacy rather than 7-11 buddy. Second, this isn't the type of thing that players typically discuss when they've not missed any practice or game time.
So is LeBron setting up excuses for a poor performance or trying to create his own flu game legacy? Of course the actual response is likely that he just feels lousy and made the mistake of telling a reporter so that people like me get to rip on him for something that could happen to anyone.
Who steps up?
Dwyane Wade and LeBron probably want to score a whole lot more, and they will be successful in that effort. The key for Chicago is that when they combine for 50 that they require 55 shots to do it.
It's hard for me to imagine any outcome in this game other than LeBron and Wade ISOing the crap out of the game and forcing up shots galore and attempting to get to the free throw line as much as possible.
As such, the same defense used in game one should be more than sufficient in game two. The Bulls won't need to make many adjustments because they already over-committed to LeBron/Wade the first time around and let the rest of the cast beat them up.
We'll see if the dynamic duo can top the 59% FG% of the rest of the non garbage time cast to actually make this more isolation thing work.
The glass vs the break
The Bulls did an amazing job of hitting the offensive glass while still denying the fast break opportunities for Miami. Miami wants to improve in both areas, but bringing more guys in to rebound likely means less leaking out on the break and leaking out on the break means dicier rebounding.
It was truly tremendous that Chicago managed to excel in both areas so well. One of the keys was not making turnovers to initiate the Miami fast break attack. The Bulls will rely on great ball control again in order to play so effectively.
Here's a dirty secret, the Bulls offense sucked last game
Miami played tremendous defense at the point of attack in game one. The Bulls were held to under 40% from the field on their initial shot attempts. The Bulls won the game primarily behind three point shooting that came off of offensive rebounds as well as the tip ins. If Chicago had a reasonable amount of offensive boards (say 12) rather than 19, the Heat very well may have won the game.
The corollary to this is that the Bulls defense wasn't all that great either. Miami shot 47% from the field, and the Bulls probably don't win too often while allowing that high of a FG%.
The Bulls won the game (in blow out fashion) due to offensive rebounding and ball control. Those two things propped up their offense while limiting their opponents offense. It's going to be difficult to hit on those areas with the same efficiency in game two.
Bring the energy, bring the effort, make them cry
Wade and LeBron looked completely full of quit mid way through the fourth quarter even when they weren't being beat down by an insurmountable lead. There were points where Chicago was up by around 10-13 points, and the Heat still looked defeated.
The Heat can score in bunches in a hurry and should like it's quite possible to overcome a double digit lead if they get on a run, but their body language said otherwise.
As such, I think it's still fair to wonder about the mental toughness with this group. As noted, whenever they've hit a pocket of adversity, it's typically resulted in losses in bunches. This isn't a team that's been able to turn things around quickly when they've had problems.
If the Bulls win tonight, it won't mean the series, but they will be standing around like a vanquished Mortal Kombat foe wobbling back and forth waiting for you to rip out the heart or lop off the head.
Teams rarely come back from down 0-2, and the Bulls are the type of team that's very unlikely to fall apart given their mental toughness and make up.
I think the Bulls see a tremendous effort from Miami tonight, I think they'll struggle to win this game. However, if they do, things look awfully good for Chicago going forward.