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Bet on the NBABulls 4-0 over the Heat – is that prediction?

No, that is the Bulls' current record over the Heat after sweeping them 3-0 in the regular season, and then taking a commanding 1-0 start in the Eastern Conference Finals playoff series. Chicago shut down Miami's biggest two and then stepped up their offense in the second half, cruising to a 103-82 victory. The Heat had no effective answers to the crushing defense and were obviously rattled by the end of the game against an energetic Bulls team.

Last summer, these two teams decided to rebuild their rosters, but they had very different plans for doing so. The Miami Heat attracted three superstars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, spending most of their salary cap to build this core. Despite the brilliance of these three, there was not a lot of room for much else, and the Big Three from Miami would have to put the team on their backs night after night if they wanted to win. They ended the season in second place in the East, 58-24.

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The Chicago Bulls, on the other hand, had Derrick Rose but could not convince any of the major superstars in the league to join them. So they went deep instead, building a young team with tons of energy and raw talent. Lead by first-year coach Tom Thibodeau, the team focused on suffocating other teams' offenses, while scraping together some points of their own. The team finished with the MVP, Coach of the Year, best record in the league, and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

So it was probably inevitable that these two would meet in the playoffs sometime. James had publicly and notoriously made his move to Miami in order to win “not six, not seven” NBA championships, while Rose just spent the summer balling out and practicing. Despite being the favorites in nearly every meeting, the Heat could never quite overcome the Bulls during the regular season.

Last night's Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals was really just a continuation. The two teams kept the game close for the first half, but then the Bulls tightened the defense and went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter. James and Wade were never heard from in the second half, as Bosh led all Miami players in points with 30. The Heat outshot the Bulls, making 47% of their field goals compared to 43.7%.

But the Bulls rebounded big. They had 45 total and 19 offensive boards compared to the Heat's 33 and six. Chicago outscored Miami 31-8 on second-chance points. By the time Wade walked off the court late in the game, he looked tired and demoralized, having been beaten down by the Bulls defense every minute he was in the game. James looked little different, sitting on the bench and looking shell-shocked as the Bulls bench outplayed the Heat starters.

So are the hated Heat no longer the favorites? I don't know. But my money is on the Bulls to win this series. With their defensive strategy, how they bring the game to the Heat's Big Three, Miami's lack of any scoring besides the superstars, and the talent coming off of Chicago's bench, it looks like an 11-on-3 game out there. The Heat even tried sneaking a sixth player on the court for a second, all to no avail.

The Bulls are unbeatable when their defense is tight and their offense is flowing. I think they can put together that combination three more times in the next six games. And if they keep shutting down two of Miami's Big Three consistently, the Heat will have no answers, not enough wins, and no trip to the NBA Finals in their first year together.


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