Quantcast 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls


2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 - Chicago 103, Miami 82 – Bulls lead series, 1-0


It was surprising enough that the Chicago Bulls got the jump on the Miami Heat in the heavily-anticipated Eastern Conference finals. What really stood out on Sunday night at the United Center was the fact that the Bulls flatly embarrassed the NBA’s most hated team.

Yes, the pre-series buzz, while not quite suggesting a Miami coronation, flowed solidly in favor of the team that America quickly learned to despise after LeBron James’s “Decision” to take his talents to South Beach. Miami might be wearing the black hat in every series it plays as long as LeBron is on the roster, but the Heat – like them or not – showed a great deal of toughness in disposing of the Boston Celtics over the previous one and a half weeks. The Heat absorbed Boston’s physical style of play and held their own against the savvy and shrewd veterans who won two East titles over the previous three seasons and claimed the world championship in 2008. When Miami turned back a Boston team that uses the same defensive system of the Chicago Bulls – Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was the Celtics’ defensive guru before he took the top job in the Windy City – Miami earned the right to be called the favorite in this series, a rematch of the 1997 East finals won by Chicago in five games.

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A noticeable portion of pundits took the Bulls in this matchup, but the majority sentiment was that the Heat would take this best-of-seven battle in six games. Miami‘s combo of LeBron and his tag-team partner, Dwyane Wade, was supposed to be too much for a Chicago team that struggled past Indiana and labored through six games against a less-than-elite Atlanta squad in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Perhaps Chicago was ready to give Miami a good run, but the Bulls – despite a league-high 62 wins during the regular season and home court throughout the playoffs – didn’t seem to be cagey or wise enough to handle the nuances of playoff basketball, something the Heat – with LeBron and Wade at the helm – didn’t have to worry about.

In one game, however, that conventional wisdom has been greatly diminished, if not outrightly muted. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, but if Miami is going to beat Chicago, it now appears that the Heat will simply have to outwork and outshoot the Bulls instead of outfoxing them. The Bulls don’t have a bunch of playoff stalwarts on their roster. Carlos Boozer has been through the battles with the Utah Jazz, but no one would call him a premier playoff performer. The other regulars in the Chicago lineup – league MVP Derrick Rose included – have not made an NBA Finals series.

None of it mattered on Sunday.



In one quarter’s worth of action, the Bulls turned an even-steven dogfight into a rout. Chicago didn’t just get a win, it scored a humiliation of the Heat and caused Miami to spend a lot of time reflecting over the next two off days before Wednesday’s Game 2.

The Bulls, who trailed 58-57 with 7:35 left in the third quarter, found themselves leading 83-66 with 7:50 left in the fourth period of play. How did Chicago engineer that stunning turnaround before a raucous home crowd? Two keys rose above all else for the top seed in the East: Offensive rebounds and three-point shots. Chicago needed to excel in both areas if it was going to win this series, and sure enough, the Bulls delivered the goods in Game 1. In that 26-8 surge which catapulted the home team to this runaway romp, 11 of those 26 points were second-chance scores. The Bulls outworked Miami for 50-50 balls and, as a result of winning those scrambles, were able to operate against a Heat defense that – as a result of flowing to the spot of the rebound – was out of position in terms of guarding all five Bulls on the floor. Chicago rebounders, typically Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah, plucked the rebound and immediately found an open man behind the three-point line. The Bulls pounded Miami on the offensive glass, 19-6, and then hit 10 of 21 threes compared to Miami’s paltry 3-of-8 showing.

Noah finished with 8 offensive boards for Chicago while Gibson finished with 3 offensive rebounds. That boardwork against Miami’s ineffective front line enabled Rose, Chicago’s heartbeat, to hit 10 of 22 shots while teammate Luol Deng tossed in 4 of 6 threes.

While the Bulls flourished thanks to their work on the offensive glass, only one Miami player showed up. Chris Bosh went for 30 points and 9 boards while the two biggest members of the Heat’s “Big Three,” LeBron and Wade, both failed to score 20 points and hit 50 percent from the floor. This was a comprehensive beatdown which the Heat must answer if they expect to be competitive in this series.

You heard that right: It’s up to the Heat to stay competitive in this series after one game. It’s not what the hoops cognoscenti expected after the first 48 minutes of competition in the 2011 East finals.


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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer

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