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Can the Bulls upset the Heat?
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On May 5, 2013 @ 1:39 am In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Heat’s return to the NBA Finals has been seen as an inevitability since the playoffs began. They swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round without breaking a sweat, and even won the final game with Dwyane Wade sidelined. LeBron James is about to receive his fourth MVP award.
The Chicago Bulls beat the Brooklyn Nets 99-93 in Saturday’s Game 7, meaning they will face the Heat in Miami on Monday in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They have played the Heat tough in the past, but injuries make it a long shot for a Chicago upset in the playoffs.
Putting aside the never-ending Derrick Rose speculation (spoiler alert: He won’t play), Chicago is dealing with a litany of other injuries to key players. Joakim Noah gave a heroic effort in the first round despite battling plantar fasciitis. Luol Deng was hospitalized on Friday while undergoing a spinal-tap procedure. Nate Robinson is battling the flu. Kirk Hinrich missed the bulk of the Bulls’ first-round series with a calf bruise.
The Heat, meanwhile, have had over a week of rest. Wade’s knee soreness is the only injury to a key player, but all indications are he’ll play on Monday.
In the past, Deng has defended James effectively, but between his heavy minutes load and his most recent injury, his effectiveness will likely be limited. Chicago will depend on second-year forward Jimmy Butler to stop him.
The matchup between Noah and Chris Bosh will be key. Both are solid two-way bigs, but Noah’s foot injury gives Miami an advantage in that area as well.
The Bulls’ best hope is sustained hot shooting from their guards. Robinson is coming off an excellent series, and Marco Belinelli hit some key shots. But the Heat are no slouches in the shooting department, either. With Deng not at full strength, Chicago’s perimeter defense may not be able to handle the likes of Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mike Miller.
Matchups between these two teams are always tough, physical and emotional. The Bulls have overachieved all season despite numerous injuries to key players. But these injuries are adding up at … [For more on Playoff Putbacks: Can the Bulls upset the Heat?, click here.]
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