By Brad Thompson–
CHICAGO (WSCR) The Heat are going to come out swinging in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. Miami was embarrassed in Game 1. Chicago dominated the boards, shot well from three-point land and Taj Gibson posterized Dwyane Wade.
Miami lacked effort, focus and tenacity in the series opener. Expect just the opposite from the Heat on Wednesday night at the Madhouse on Madison. LeBron James and Wade combined for 33 points in Game 1. That won’t happen in Game 2. Look for James and Wade to attack the rim with the same aggressiveness and determination they showed in the Boston series.
Chicago owned the glass, outrebounding Miami 45-33, including 19-6 on the offensive end. The offensive rebounding advantage enabled the Bulls to outscore Miami 31-8 in second-chance points. Clearly, Miami has to make some adjustments.
With two days off between Game 1 and 2, Miami has plenty of time to think about why and how they got run out of the building in the opener. Don’t think for a minute that James, Wade and the rest of the Heat aren’t itching to prove that the Game 1 blowout was a fluke and won’t happen again.
So what can the Bulls do to counter this?
First, weather the storm. LeBron and Wade will be attacking the rim early. Both players will be looking to avenge their poor performance in Game 1 by being aggressive especially offensively. Luckily for the Bulls, they’ll have the support and energy of their home fans to weather Miami’s storm. They’ll need it.
Second, don’t let physical play from Miami frustrate them. Since the Heat got punked on the boards on Sunday night, they’ll be attacking the glass hard in Game 2. The Bulls are one of the most physical teams in the league, so I’m not too worried about the Heat being more physical than Chicago, but I do worry about the Heat getting chippy and frustrating the Bulls.
Third, limit turnovers. The Heat are at their best when they are pushing the tempo and scoring in transition. If Chicago can limit their turnovers, it prevents Miami from getting easy baskets. Wade and James are outstanding finishers in the open court, so limiting fast-break opportunities is crucial. The Bulls’ rebounding dominance in Game 1 might help here. All five players on the Heat need to be crashing the defensive glass and not leaking out for fast-break opportunities.
Fourth, match the Heat’s intensity. This goes along with weathering the storm. If the Bulls can play with the same defensive intensity as they did in Game 1, then it’ll be easier to keep Wade and James out of the paint. The good news for Chicago is that they’ve been one of the most consistent teams in the league when it comes to being focused and prepared for games. The Bulls rarely play without tremendous effort and intensity. Game 2 should be no different.
Fifth, stay out of foul trouble, especially early on. If Wade and James are aggressively driving to the hoop, it’s important for players like Deng and Noah to avoid fouls. Chicago did a great job of playing stingy defense without fouling in Game 1.
As poorly as James and Wade played in Game 1, it’s a long series. Don’t expect Luol Deng to outplay James all series. Wade and James are superstars for a reason and they’ll be at their best on Wednesday night. If the Bulls can effectively slow down the Big 3 with their team defense, they’ll be fine.
What’s so encouraging for Chicago is how this young, inexperience playoff team is handling things. Bulls’ players are saying they expect the best Miami has to offer and are guaranteeing intensity for Game 2. Properly managing the time between games is so critical in the playoffs and the Bulls seem to have the right mindset and approach.
Game 2 is sure to be a dogfight. The Heat do not want to go back to Miami down 0-2. I’m eager to see how Miami, and in particular James and Wade, play in Game 2. They are looking to redeem themselves after Game 1, but Chicago’s defense was lockdown in the opener.
So as Bart Scott would say, I “can’t wait” for Game 2.
Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.
Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.