Monday, March 9, 2009

HEAT -vs- BULLS Preview

The Heat take on the Chicago Bulls tonight at American Airlines Arena and try to rebound from a tough loss on Saturday to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Heat overcame a 14 point first quarter deficit in that game to make it close, but the Cavs were too strong down the stretch, frustrating Wade with their physical defense. The Heat look to find a way to start the game off strong tonight, and their old rival Bulls might be the perfect team to do that against.
The Heat has beaten the Bulls twice this year, both times with strong play from their backcourt. We will get another chance to see the top pick from last years NBA draft, Derrick Rose, take on our rookie point guard, Mario Chalmers. In the matchups so far Chalmers has played Rose evenly, but Wade's outstanding play has been the real difference. Wade loves to play against his hometown squad, so this should be a fun one. Wade will be matched up tonight with offensive stud Bed Gordon and defensive annoyance Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich is a master at grabbing Wade when he is moving around screens. It often gets missed by the referees, but not by Wade, who has been injured before by Hinrich from such a move. The Bulls backcourt is tough, but no team has had an answer for Wade so far this year, so the Heat have the edge.
Both teams frontcourts have been a work in progress all season long. Both squads made a move to improve this issue at the trade deadline and are working to get acclimated with the new pieces as the season progresses. The Bulls, Luol Deng will miss this game with a leg injury, so the frontcourt scoring will fall on new arrival John Salmons. Salmons is a smooth scoring wing player, from the U, who has averaged 22.0 over his last two games. The rest of their frontcourt is manned by one dimensional players. Tyrus Thomas is developing into a good defensive player, who gets his points off of transition buckets. Joakim Noah is another guy who can not create his own offense, but can make a difference with his hustle. It will be the job of Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem to keep those guys off of the boards. The Heat need O'Neal to keep up his offensive output, but really need stronger play on the boards. He is due that breakout game, and hopefully tonight will be that night. Jamario Moon's scoring has been up and down since his arrival, but tonight's matchup with an uptempo squad should provide him opportunities to get out in transition early and get into the flow.
The Bulls best players off the bench are Hinrich and Brad Miller, so the Heat should have the edge with Daquan Cook and Michael Beasley. It would be nice to see the addition of Luther Head pay off tonight, but it is more likely that Cook and Beasley will be the only bench players making a difference. Both players have been scoring the ball well as of late, and the Bulls provide them with good matchups to keep that up. Do not underestimate Beasley's drive to outperform Rose, who was picked one spot ahead of him in the draft, and was getting all the Rookie of the Year talk during the first half of the season. A great game tonight could put Beasley back in the talk for R.O.Y. as the season comes to a close.
Dwayne Wade is just too much for the Bulls to compete with right now. Heat by 5.

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