Bulls 93, Heat 86 (Game 1, Bulls lead 1-0)

I still expect Miami to win this series, though the Bulls play them well and have given themselves a chance. What I love about this Bulls team is what I wrote about the other day https://benjaminntaylor.com/2013/05/04/bulls-99-nets-93-game-7/: Thibodeau’s philosophy of “Next man up, never quit,” which was evident tonight. These Bulls do not back down. 1-12 (1-7 more like it currently) play with the intensity of 6-time Finals champions.

Beyond that though, this is the worst-case scenario for Miami. They have to beat a tough, defensive, hard-fouling scrappy squad that has no fear of them, get shoved around, beat up and then (in all likelihood) play the same kind of team in the Conference Finals. Between Chicago and Indiana the Heat are going to take a good deal of punishment. The two teams are the ones in the East most likely to steal at least two games (obviously, the Bulls are 1-for-1 in that department already) from Miami and extend a series, opening up LeBron, the fragile D-Wade, Bosh et al to even more punishment. Moreover, the Pacers play like the depleted Bulls — fighting for every loose ball, playing vigorous defense and beating opponents by wearing them down and running smart and well-executed plays in the second half.

I still expect Miami to make the Finals, but if San Antonio (their likely opponent with Russell Westbrook out… we think) can finish off Golden State and the hottest shooter on Earth in Stephen Curry (definitely not guaranteed) in say, five games and then dispatch OKC, will Miami have the energy and resilience to match up with an a defensively-minded physical team for a third straight series? I don’t know. That’s not Miami’s game and that’s how you beat them. Beyond that, Gregg Popovich is the smartest coach in the game, and the Spurs aren’t afraid of Miami either. I think Miami will be worn out, banged-up and even the aging Spurs will be too much for them. I like Eric Spoelstra and think he’s grown a great deal as a head coach, but Popovich completely outmatches him. Miami doesn’t have a true big man, as Bosh seems reluctant to post up and seems to prefer playing the wing; Duncan and Splitter can handle LeBron and Bosh defensively, and I don’t have faith in Wade’s knee for him to be the primary scorer if LBJ and Bosh get locked out. Ray Allen could provide the spark, but I don’t see anyone on Miami’s roster who can compete with the Spurs’ total basketball.

That’s what Popovich does: echoing back to the concept of “total football” executed by Ajax and then the Dutch national team during the mid- and late-70s, in which every man on the pitch is expected to be capable of playing each position; a fluid, fast-paced versatile style intended to confuse the opponent’s defense. Popovich’s offense works similarly, complemented by precision passing and footwork and the absence of a kobe-style player who occasionally places his numbers above his team in priority. That kind of team (Bulls, Pacers, Spurs) is the worst nightmare for the Heat; unselfish, hustling, never-say-die defensive teams are the teams that Miami doesn’t beat.

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~ by Benji on 6 May 2013.

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