Will Game 2 decide Heat-Bulls series?
So much for being underdogs. For a game at least, the Chicago Bulls spat in the face of the Vegas odds and put the Miami Heat in a hole in the Eastern Conference finals.
What worked so well for Chicago? What do LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company have to do now? Will Game 2 decide the series?
We asked five writers:
1. Game 1: What is the No. 1 reason the Bulls thumped the Heat?
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Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: The Bulls played with more focus and emotional energy. The Heat have to be ready to battle for 48 minutes, because any lapse in energy or execution by Miami will result in a long scoring drought.
Matt McHale, Bulls By The Horns: Rebounding. In Game 1, the Bulls ripped down 19 offensive rebounds and scored 31 second-chance points. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra all admitted that Chicago's dominance on the boards was demoralizing. That kind of rebounding will break a team's will. And it did.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Pat Riley, the mad scientist of this Heat team, once said: "No rebounds, no rings." Rebounds are about positioning and hustle, and with 19 offensive rebounds and 31 second-chance points, Chicago had plenty of both. Combine that with suffocating D and the Bulls ran through the Heat like the toros do tourists in Pamplona.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: The Heat shot an impressive 47 percent from the field in Game 1, but they tallied only 11 assists on 32 field goals. In one sense, Miami scored the ball efficiently. But in actuality, Chicago's defense paralyzed the Heat offense and held James and Wade to 12-for-32 shooting from the field.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Obviously, the rebounding was a huge factor. But the Heat held their own on the boards in the first half. The game turned when the Heat didn't match the Bulls' intensity after halftime. It wasn't just rebounding; it was all facets of the game.
2. Game 2: What's most essential for each team to do to win Game 2?
Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: The Bulls should try to do everything they did in Game 1 the exact same way in Game 2. Everything.
The Heat have to box-out all over the court to minimize what will continue to be an advantage on the boards for Chicago. I also expect to see the Heat run more Wade-James pick-and-rolls.
Matt McHale, Bulls By The Horns: The Heat need to box-out and rebound. It's that simple.
As for the Bulls, they must take care of the basketball. Miami's offense relies heavily on transition opportunities that are fueled by forced turnovers. Chicago can't afford to give up easy points on the fast break. It doesn't just spin the score board. It gives the opposition confidence.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: For Chicago, more of the same. Tom Thibodeau's defense is predicated on making multifaceted offenses one-dimensional. In Game 1, the Bulls did that well by, forcing the Heat into isolations in the second half.
The Heat need more ball movement. I wouldn't be surprised to see LeBron play more as a facilitator in Game 2.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Miami is a three-man team. In order to beat the Bulls, it will need all three stars to put up star numbers.
Conversely, Chicago simply needs to maintain its stifling team defense. This series is simple: either Miami's star power or Chicago's defense will prevail.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: The Bulls must not fall into the trap of relying on the jump-shooting success they had in Game 1.
The Heat have to limit the Bulls' offensive rebounds, of course. They won't stop all of them, but it can't be a rout.
3. LeBron and D-Wade: What will Miami's dynamic duo do in Game 2?
Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Look for LeBron to come out firing in Game 2. The Heat need him to be more aggressive within the context of their offense, moving the ball from side to side and feeding Wade off curls.
Matt McHale, Bulls By The Horns: People are focusing on what they didn't do on offense. I'd worry more about what they did on defense. In Game 1, the Bulls scored at a rate of 121.2 points per 100 possessions. Coach Spo wants his squad to do a better job of forcing turnovers and closing out on shooters, and those guys set the tone on the defensive end.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: LeBron and D-Wade need to be far more aggressive on the weak side. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: "What we do off the ball can't just be fluff." In the conference semis, Bron and Wade scorched the Celtics (whose D was designed by Thibodeau) this way. They need to get back to that in Game 2.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Keeping with my theme, LeBron and D-Wade need to break free from Tom Thibodeau's grip. A great performance from either player creates a push, even on Chicago's floor. A great game from both players puts Chicago in the difficult position of getting one back in Miami.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: I would expect a return to the mean. For them that means a combined 50-55 points and getting to the line 12-15 times, at least. The Heat's 22-minute absence from the foul line in Game 1 was perhaps the most stunning stat.
4. Fact or Fiction: The winner of Game 2 will advance to the NBA Finals.
Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fiction. But if Chicago gets up 2-0, I don't see Miami coming back in the series. The Bulls won't give up any cheap wins now that they've regained that scrappy underdog ethos. Hard to imagine the Heat playing well enough to win four out of five with two more games on the road.
Matt McHale, Bulls By The Horns: Fiction. These teams are far too good for the second game to determine so much. Could the Heat come back from an 0-2 series deficit? Of course. Could the Bulls steal a game in Miami if they lose one at home? Without question. It's too early to talk about the Finals.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fiction. In 2007, the Pistons took a 2-0 lead on a LeBron-led Cavaliers team. I thought the Cavs were toast. But they won two at home and returned to Detroit, where LeBron scored 25 straight points in Game 5. One game later and the Cavs were in their first NBA Finals. That taught me nothing's over 'til one team wins four.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Fiction. Chicago can lose Game 2 and still win the series. Miami, on the other hand, will not overcome a 2-0 deficit against the league's leader in regular-season wins. If the Bulls win Game 2, this series is over in five games.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Fact. Or at least you can make that case. If the Bulls win, they'd be 5-0 against the Heat and it would be hard to see Miami winning four of five. The Heat have been great at home in the postseason, and getting home court might tip the scales.
5. Fact or Fiction: This is just Chicago's year.
Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: Fiction. I don't really believe in that narrative. It's too easy to retrofit it for whichever team is winning now. It certainly didn't look like the Bulls' year a week ago. But they were the best team in the league during the regular season, so it is accurate to say that it has been their year so far.
Matt McHale, Bulls By The Horns: Fiction. The idea that it's "just Team X's year" is a handy narrative to use after the fact. Ultimately, teams win because it plays harder and better than its opponents. If the Bulls make it to the NBA Finals, it will be because they outplayed the Heat, not because of fate.
Rob Peterson, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fiction. After Taj Gibson's follow-up dunk, it was easy to think that. It's easy to get caught up in the emotion of a blowout, but it's too early to fit the Bulls with championship rings. The Heat, and whichever team comes out of the West, will still be formidable obstacles to the Bulls' seventh title.
Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: Fact. When Chicago sprinted through the finish at the end of the regular season, the writing was on the wall. They have the league's best defense, best player and this season's best coach. What's not to like? The Bulls may never fully escape the shadow of Michael Jordan, but they're taking a convincing half-step into a new light.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Fiction. That would imply some fate/magic. If the Bulls win it all, it would be through hard work. It seems the West is going to produce the Cinderella.
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