Bulls should learn something from short-handed win over Heat
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If the NBA playoffs started today, the Bulls would match up against the New York Knicks in the first round.
Should they survive that grudge match, a second-round date with the Miami Heat would follow, barring a colossal upset.
So fans were understandably curious to see how the Bulls matched up with the Heat in the first meeting between the teams this season. Since neither team was at full strength, the game should simply be appreciated for what it was -- an entertaining duel between two of the league's biggest stars.
Derrick Rose scored 34 points, Dwyane Wade added 33 and the Bulls pulled out a 99-96 victory at the United Center, thanks to Kyle Korver's go-ahead 3-pointer with 25.5 seconds left.
Should the Bulls be worried the game was so close, even with LeBron James sitting out with a sprained ankle and Chris Bosh missing the fourth quarter with the same injury? Sure, a blowout would have been more impressive, but no need to worry.
Not sure if this was listed on James Naismith's original rules of basketball, but two players cannot shoot the ball at the same time.
If James was on the floor, Wade may never have scored 33 points or even attempted 3 straight 3-point shots in the final two minutes, let along make them all.
After the Bulls pulled out to double-digit leads in the second and third quarters, Miami got back into the game with hot 3-point shooting from Mike Miller and Eddie House, then used an 11-point flurry from Bosh.
Maybe none of those players gets a chance to light it up if James plays. Maybe James would have exploded while Wade sat out in the third quarter with four fouls.
Yes, it will be extremely difficult for the Bulls or any team to knock out the Heat in a seven-game playoff series. There will be times when a star-studded team like Miami plays poorly for 3½ quarters, then shoots itself into a comeback victory.
There are a couple of things worth taking out of Saturday's game, though:
• Miami wants no part of Carlos Boozer vs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Ilgauskas, 35, has been starting at center for Miami and averaging 18 minutes per game. On Saturday, Ilgauskas played eight minutes, none in the second half.
Maybe Ilgauskas had some sort of injury, but it's more likely Heat coach Eric Spoelstra didn't trust him to stop Boozer. Backup center Joel Anthony rarely scores, but is a far superior defender. He played 22 of 24 minutes in the second half.
This led to a disturbing discovery for the Bulls: Boozer hit 6 of 14 shots for 12 points. Interior defense is believed to be one of Miami's greatest weaknesses and the Bulls would hope to get more than 12 points from Boozer.
The dynamic will be completely different when Bulls center Joakim Noah returns from a thumb injury, so maybe it's not worth too much discussion.
Miami made a similar switch at point guard. Starter Carlos Arroyo was yanked two minutes into the third quarter and never returned. Mario Chalmers guarded Rose the rest of the way and if he helped defensively, it was very little.
• Don't lose track of Ronnie Brewer.
Saturday's game left this unmistakable perception: Brewer is by far the Bulls' best option to guard Wade. He was much better than Keith Bogans and Luol Deng.
Brewer was on the bench when Wade knocked down those late 3-pointers. Coach Tom Thibodeau said later he wanted to spread the floor with more shooters because the Heat was sending two defenders at Rose. So the Bulls had Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson on the floor with Deng and Boozer.
Brewer returned to the floor for the last two possessions and stripped the ball from Wade, which eventually led to a 3-point miss by Chalmers, then contested Wade's final jumper and forced an air ball.
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