Posted by Andrew Shi
Come playoffs, the Eastern Conference Finals will end in a showdown between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, and if regular season matches are any indication of the conference results, the Bulls will leave victorious.
Last year, however, the Heat beat the Bulls in six games. So what has changed? Player-wise, not much. For the Bulls the only notable change has been Richard Hamilton for Keith Bogans, but besides that it is the same players. For the Heat there has been some more movement. Rookie Norris Cole has shown potential and Shane Battier has added to their defense. The mid-season pickup of Ronny Turiaf also may prove to be the center the Heat need. Still the team revolves around the big three.
The Heat have shown substantial improvement as a team. They seem much more cohesive and team chemistry is flowing well. NBA daily highlight reels always include at least one alley-oop between Wade and Lebron. The Heat are currently fourth in the league for points scored per game and Wade and Lebron are at the top of the league in points. Still the Heat, as seen in a recent losing streak, are beatable and it is often suspected that in their attempt for team chemistry, Wade and Lebron are holding each other back, and if one left the Heat would do better.
This All-Star conflict doesn't exist in the Bulls. Although there are two current All-Stars on the team (Derrick Rose and Luol Deng) the power of the Bulls doesn't derive from their tremendous offense as it does for the Heat. The reason why the Bulls are the best team in the Eastern Conference, and possibly the league, is because of their overwhelming defense.
Under Thibodeau, a known defensive specialist who was essential in the transformation and championship of the Celtics in 2008, the Bulls are the best in the league for points allowed per game at an average of 88.9, nearly four less than the Heat.
The Bulls defensive hasn't always been able to keep the Heat at this average though. In three encounters so far, the Bulls have won two. The first they lost 97-93, although Luol Deng was out. In the next game they won 106-102. Here the Heat go far past the average, but what was impressive about the Bull's win was that it was without MVP Derrick Rose, which demonstrates the caliber of supporting players such as sharpshooter Kyle Korver , C.J Watson and Taj Gibson. It was only in the last matchup that the Bulls kept the Heat at 86 and took the win scoring 96.
The Heat may have the offense advantage, but if - not to be clich?? - defense is the best offense, than the Bulls will leave, come May, as the conference champions. A lot will depend on the health of Derrick Rose who has missed 24 games due to injuries, but as proven before, the Bull's bench members are more than prepared to battle without him.
The final regular season matchup between the Heat and Bulls tonight may be a better predictor of the playoff results.