Brace yourself for Miami's best

The Bulls became a great story by taking game one with a depleted roster and Nate Robinson outplaying LeBron James. Many things went right for Chicago in game one, including the Heat missing many wide open corner threes taken by quality three point shooters. Chicago will have to hope to improve on the formula that brought them a game one victory, because the Heat are likely to bring it tonight.

Luol Deng is still in the hospital. Kirk Hinrich can still barely move though the discoloration and swelling in his leg from the internal bleeding has improved.

In short, don't expect either guy to be back for game two, and as I noted previously, if they're out the whole series it shouldn't surprise anyone. The Bulls will need to continue to find a formula to win without them as unlikely as that seems.

My brain says 1-4 Heat series win. The Bulls don't have the talent, depth, or health to hang with Miami. Sure, they won a game against a team rusty from a long layoff that clearly looked like it didn't apply itself in game one. How will they fare against the Heat's best shot? Logic insists, not well.

Given the talent disparity and injury situation any win the Bulls pull off against the Heat is a miracle.

Meet Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah, miracle makers

Someone forgot to tell Nate Robinson that he's a minimum salary player rather than an unstoppable superstar. Maybe Stacey King crumpled up the memo and threw it away, maybe Nate's got a spam filter on his inbox.

Nate Robinson's given you everything in what has become the crowning season of his career. Robinson has proven that he can score, break guys down off the dribble, but he's also shown that he can be a decision maker and is as clutch as they come. We've seen Nate Robinson deliver when "star" players have failed, including LeBron James in game one.

Joakim Noah's giving you everything he has all game long and with his plantar fascitiis no longer a big factor, he's moving, rebounding, scoring, and passing like we know he can. He's perhaps the least prototypical player in the NBA which makes him a challenge to deal with.

The Heat don't have players that want to work and hustle to keep up with Noah. Bosh is too soft and lazy. Haslem doesn't have the size. There is no one else. Joakim Noah will continue to play x-factor all series long.

Jimmy Butler rested once. It was awful.

The ironman has played all 48 minutes the past three games and will likely continue to do so for as long as Luol Deng is out. Butler's diving into the lane, drawing contact, forcing the issue constantly. He doesn't have the strength of LeBron, but he has good size, athleticism, and can make LeBron work as much as anyone.

He's also not afraid to drive and force the issue on the other end of the court, something Luol Deng could rarely pull off against James.

Are injuries helping Chicago?

Conventional wisdom is that the Bulls are screwed without Deng/Hinrich, but I have to ask, are the Bulls better off without these guys?

Luol Deng has been abhorrently bad in the playoffs thus far. He's shooting 5% from the three point line, doesn't generate fouls like Butler and doesn't have the athleticism to bother LeBron as much. The Bulls would feature a better defensive lineup with Butler/Deng than Butler/Belinelli, but LeBron probably plays better while Wade is shut down more.

Instead, the Bulls are keeping Belinelli on the floor more, and Marco's had a much better playoffs than Luol Deng. Deng's consistent, solid, brings effort, and has had some big games against Miami.

Nate Robinson's played much more with Hinrich out, and well, Nate Robinson has taken on the title of point-God. He might be playing the best of any point guard still alive in the playoffs right now, and he wouldn't have been featured so much if Kirk were healthy.

The Bulls need Deng/Kirk back, but Thibodeau needs to re-examine his rotations to make sure he's not cutting too much playing time from the guys who got him here or swinging the matchups to a less favorable position if he brings them back.

Will the Bulls get offense from Boozer/Belinelli?

Both these guys are largely one way offensive players who no longer have quality matchups. Both struggled in game one while Butler, Noah, and Robinson won the game for Chicago.

The Bulls big three will likely regress to the mean in game two, but Chicago can get plenty more out of this pair than they did last game.

Carlos Boozer in particular has a tough challenge ahead of him. He's frequently struggled mightily against the Heat, but the Bulls are going to need him to give them some performances similar to what he did against Brooklyn to win this series. They need him to chew up minutes and if his defense is still lousy then he can still break even by hurting Miami on offense.

Chicago needs 50% from the floor Boozer not 30% from the floor Boozer for the rest of this series. He doesn't have to be the star, the go to clutch player, or the closer, but he needs to play to his strengths while he's in the game.

Marco plays as streaky as the next mid-level perimeter player. There are games he he'll give Chicago 20 with volume three point shooting and drives to the basket. There are games where he'll draw fouls and look like an offensive go to guy. Then there are games where he can't throw the ball in the ocean.

He was coming off one of the second type, but that didn't stop him from drilling a crucial three in the clutch to help pull Chicago to victory on Monday. The Bulls will need Marco to step up and give them more.

Beat up the third perimeter defender

Wade is great. LeBron is great. Whomever the third guy is? Not great.

The Bulls will play much of the game with Robinson, Butler, and Belinelli on the perimeter and whomever is guard by that third guy needs to step up and have a monster game. Nate Robinson did it in game one, but logic insists that even Erick Spoelstra isn't so stupid that he'll fail to make an adjustment after losing

(note he was stupid enough not to make one during the game, but we'll assume Pat Riley beat some sense into him before game two)

That means it's likely on Butler or Belinelli to really make some offense go for Chicago in key moments down the stretch.

Anatomy of a win

The Bulls players are generally less consistent and less talented than their Heat counterparts, but if Chicago gets everyone clicking on the same page, they can be extremely dangerous. Chicago doesn't need everyone to play great every day, what they need is for their players to play great on the same days, so that they can win those games.

It won't be easy, it's certainly not likely, but for at least one more afternoon, Chicago can believe.

And if they win....


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  • If they win media is gonna kill the heat and the pressure on them is gonna go thru the roof...they have the attitude as if they are not taking bulls seriously. If miami continue to not take bulls seriously because of depleted roster bulls have a shot to steal one more game. And if bulls can get Kirk and loul back who knows what can happen.

  • I look for one of two things to happen in this game 2, a blowout win in favor of Miami and a 1-1 tied series. And if neither happens the Bulls will have a 2-0 lead going back to Chicago...wishful thinking but we will see.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Reese, your insight is astounding and is a tour de force of logical inference. Be honest, did you come up with that all by yourself, or did you borrow parts of it from somewhere else? Either way, job well done.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    I suspect we'll either win or lose this game. We could definitely lose by a lot, but maybe not. If we win, we'll go up 2-0. For a Bulls fan, it would be nice to win. The Heat are a good team.

  • In reply to Villageworker2:

    That's a pretty ballsy prediction... I like it!

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Oh it came from me and uhh...why should it really matter to have nothing else better to say??? Try harder next time if it's not too much for you to do.

  • Here is why Deng matters, even if he plays like garbage. With Deng and Hinrich out, the Bulls literally have zero swing-man depth. I think if Jimmy had only played 44 minutes on Monday the Bulls would have lost. The key to victory was him being able to play the full 48. Assuming the Bulls are without both Hinrich and Deng tonight, I predict LeBron goes at Jimmy hard right from the get-go to get him in foul trouble. If James gets Jimmy on the bench with two fouls in the first quarter, and the refs will likely be willing to accommodate that, the Bulls will get hammered. I wish that weren't the case, but I think that is how tonight will go.

  • In reply to bjb57:

    The refs did call a straight up game in the first contest. Miami had 24 fouls, Bulls 20 fouls. Bulls shot 29 FTs, Miami shot 25. As I recall Bosh, Noah and Boozer each had 2 fouls in the 1st quarter, but nobody fouled out of the game.

    Refs did not seem to give favorable calls to Miami. With LeBron even pouting about it a little. I hope you guys are wrong and the refs call it fairly close. It will be obvious if there is a significant change in refs performance.

  • In reply to bjb57:

    I kind of kept waiting for that to happen in game one. That would seem to be the strategy for the Heat/Lebron to pursue. In a way it is not really the way that Lebron prefers to play. He is certainly capable of doing it, as he proved any number of times in Cleveland, but in his heart, it doesn't seem to be the player that he wants to be.
    He really is different than Michael or Kobe, he is more like Magic, but maybe he needs to be like Magic without Kareem.

    I almost wish that they hadn't put Jimmy in the interview room after game one. Not that he said anything bad, but just so the Heat might continue to ingore him or forget that he even exists.

  • In reply to bjb57:

    Good point, if Butler gets into foul trouble, the Bulls are screwed, and LeBron can obviously do that.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Then we get to watch Thibs turn Daequan into the LeBron stopper!

  • I think the refs are going to come ready to play tonight and you will see their best effort to contain the Bulls. I figure Stern berated them after the last game and let them and let them know that jobs are on the line.

    Expect Noah to have 2 fouls before the end of the first quarter and 5 fouls going into the 4th quarter. Butler will be right behind him.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Agreed, and keep in mind, the refs were a little rusty after a long layoff of not working with the Heat, I'm sure their chemistry was off, and they missed some wide open chances to give the Heat the benefit on some ticky tack calls.

  • If both Hinrich and Deng are out, I would love to see Taj, Boozer and Noah all on the court together instead of putting Rip on the floor. I think this makes Lebron guard one of these guys thus freeing up Nate (if the espn article is correct in that he will guard him).

  • I think Kirk and Loul add little value to this series and that Thibs will over value and over play them and for that reason I think it is addition by subtraction.

    Like the Nets for Boozer this is the ideal matchup for Nate the Great. He doesn't have to worry about defense and can focus on offense. We need all the offense we can get and Boozer struggles against Bosh but luckily for us Bosh usually sucks against us too so it is kinda is a wash.

    Jimmy like Doug points out is able to disrupt LeBron more and put more pressure on the Heat D with his driving ability.

    Obviously I see Deng and Kirk would be valuable depth I just don't feel they would be utilized as such. Therefore I am in the extreme minority of Bulls fans hoping they both miss the series or at least most of it.

  • In reply to Chad:

    I agree with your talent evaluation, see my post below.

  • The harsh, but now obvious realization is Luol Deng, even with his $13-$14 million dollar salary and fake all-star appearances, is not appreciably better than Jimmy Butler or Marco Belinelli. True Fact! But its the GM's job to evaluate talent, know this, and plan for it.

    I was a HUGE advocate for trading Deng for that Sacramento or GS draft pick (use it on Harrison Barnes) even with taking back a bad contract. It was a proactive move for the future, but GarPaxDorf didn't have the guts/wisdom, or refused to take back equal salary (bad contract) and that was a huge mistake. Because that trade was not a money saver - it was an asset saver and medium-term improvement (2 years out). It avoided negotiating another long-term contract with Deng (who screwed the Bulls last negotiation, remember?) or losing Deng for nothing. And its the GM's job to foresee that probable outcome and avoid it.

    Getting something back for Deng who just made an all-star team and was at peak value would have been shrewd. The timing was ideal with Rose being out with the ACL. We have seen Deng's best basketball, and Harrison Barnes' best is yet to come. It was a great opportunity, GarPaxDorf passed, and the window has likely closed as Deng only has 1 season left on his contract before unrestricted free agency. Often times you don't get a second chance.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Vs. Butler, I agree that Deng isn't appreciably better. Vs. Beli, Deng is miles better. Deng is very consistent, Beli is not. Deng does a lot more to help the team win than Beli, the sometimes scorer.

    I also wish the Bulls would have traded Deng but 1) I don't know if there was a trade to be made and 2) That would really have meant tanking this season altogether, an idea I find difficult to support.

    If the Lakers had Deng, they could probably trade him for K-Love straight up but GarPax are not good salesmen, I don't think they could have gotten anything back for Deng.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I heavily suggested trading Deng for Love over 2 years ago, when Love was still not starting for Minny and obviously chaffing under kevin McHale(I think) as coach. Love was still on his rookie deal, so other contracts would have been involved, but I am sure that it never crossed the Bulls radar. It will be very interesting, likely dissappointing to see how the Bulls handle the Deng situation over the next year.

  • In reply to Edward:

    You and me both, buddy. While I have never despised Deng like Boozer or Gordon before him, I have never been particularly in love with him. To me he has been overrated to massively over rated for the vast majority of his time in Chicago. Unfortunately, Thibs is among the massive over raters. He is simply not a difference maker, especially in the playoffs, and his play has clearly peaked(I'd say around 2006-7, whatever year the Bulls swept the Heat in the first round), and to me at least noticeably dropped off since the first of this year.

    I have always maintained that he was the 4rth best player on a championship squad, and compared to the Jordan teams, probably not even as good/valuable as Kukoc who was the 4rth best player on that team.

    Now that the Bulls crack medical staff has nearly killed him just to treat the flu how much less trade value will he have this summer. Not the Bulls will be wise enough to even entertain trades. It is quite possible that the league was unwilling to give us a lottery pick for him last summer.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    The league was never willing to give a lottery pick for Deng. But for a Sac or GS to give up a draft pick for Deng AND dump 2-years of bad salary on Bulls in the process? It was Bulls relectance to take on that bad contract - again overvaluing Deng - that prevented the trade from happening.

    But like I said I believe that window has closed because its very difficult to trade a player who will be an UFA in just one season. I look how Atlanta was unable to get anything for Josh Smith with just 1 year before UFA, now its the same situation with Deng. Bulls hesitated and missed on Deng when he still had 2 years on his contract. Now its overpay or he walks for nothing - Brilliant.

  • In reply to Edward:

    What is the exact offer from Sac or GS you are talking about? Do you know for sure it was an offer the Bulls walked away from or was it an internet rumor?

    It just doesn't make sense that the Bulls had an opportunity to trade Deng that they passed on, since the team appears to be concentrating on 2014, by which time Deng will be gone anyways. Then again, it didn't make sense that after Deng rejected their offer and had a terrible, injury-plagued season, they offered him an even better offer.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    "Now that the Bulls crack medical staff has nearly killed Deng just to treat the flu" So true, and so humorous the way you worded it.

    I believe this was a case of the doctors or Rush hospital looking to cover their ass/liability rather than do what's best for the patient. Deng had symptoms that could or couldn't have been meningitis, so they tested him (very invasive spinal tap) to remove any potential liability.

    The wiser observation would have been, the flu is running through the team, let's keep Deng hospitalized for a day or two under observation and see if the flu breaks. Instead, they gave Deng a leaking spine! But they followed protocol and so the hospital/doctors have no liability.

  • And if they win....

    ...what? Pandemonium? Lebron has to give Nate his headband? We still lose 4-2? The Earth spins out of its orbit and game 3 is played on a lunar base? ABC decides to do a My So Called Life reunion episode??? What happens Doug? I have to know and I can't stand the suspense.

  • In reply to Redwhitenblack:

    Well I said I'd buy pizza for everyone in my department if the Bulls win, so I'll have a $200 lunch bill tomorrow. Other than that, who knows, but I'm also playing the lottery, so I could get lucky twice and have that cover the pizza.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Bulls up 2-0 or a happy dept. Sounds like a win/win.

  • The Heat don't want to be 2 down to any team, so they'll play with some real urgency. One would think the Bulls will feel like they have done their job ensuring a split in Miami so they will have to fight hard against complacency. If the Bulls have a legit shot at this game inside of 4 minutes remaining in the 4th I'll be even more impressed with Thibs and this team than I already am.

  • ugh, i can't watch this shit... can't stand this team.

  • Bulls just need to keep the score close throughout all of the Miami B.S.

  • Butler in the post is putting all kinds of pressure on Miami's D. That boy's good!

  • Looks like we are not in Brooklyn anymore, Dorothy, the MataPussy is, as usual in a big game situation, useless as tits on a whore.

    Miami playing like petulant little children and the refs are rewarding them for it. No shot if this continues. Nice tease on Derrick, that should make the next 2 days interesting, no matter what happens the rest of tonight.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Maybe somebody can tell the Bulls crackhead medical staff that Bozo has the flu, then we can give him a spinal tap that lasts for the rest of the series.

    Seriously, maybe more than Rose coming back the best addition or trade that we could make is getting Hinrich and Deng back full strength and losing the Bozo for the rest of the series/playoffs.

  • This entire game is just pathetic. The Bulls can't throw the ball in the ocean, Miami can't miss. Not to be that guy, but the officiating is just horrendous at this point, I'm glad Noah and Gibson both stood up for themselves and got tossed. 9 technical fouls called, with what like six of them going against the Bulls? The Bulls in no way deserved to win this game, but cmon at least call the cheap shots against BOTH teams.

  • Thibs needs to remove Marco Belinelli, bring in Rip Hamilton for an all bench lineup in this 4th quarter.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Or bring in Malcolm Thomas. But Belli shouldn't be playing now.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Exactly what I was thinking. Belli earned the right to not be out there under those circumstances. If Thibs was going to keep Belli out there, then he should have put Bozo in, since it was Bozo(garbage) time anyway. You have to show all your vets respect.

  • Oh yeah. The Bulls don't have scorers, players who can stay healthy, a bench outside of minimum contracts, and they're still stuck with Boozer. They could lose the next three games in the same fashion (which I don't think they will - not in the same fashion at least) and I'll still be very proud of this season. There's not a single reason why the Bulls shouldn't lose by 50 every game with the roster they have against the roster the Heat have. And Thibs finished 8th in CotY voting? Insane.

  • Didn't get to see game...glad I didn't that final score was crazy. Why was taj and Noah ejected?

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