The Miami Heat couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to break their road skid and reduce the gap between themselves and Chicago a top the Eastern Conference, with Bulls star Derrick Rose sidelined with a groin injury.
LeBron James set the tempo early with 12 points in the first quarter, as Miami held a slender, low scoring lead.
Eric Spoelstra’s rotational system sees LeBron James play the entirety of the first and third quarters and sit out a third to half of the second and fourth quarters. James is the NBA’s leading +/- player, meaning his team concedes more points when he is off the floor than any other combination. That was evident as the Bulls secondary unit ran rampant over a hapless Heat perimeter defense, with below par role players like John Lucas and the streaky Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver having a field day.
Chicago finished 10/19 from three, at one point were 8/13, and Miami had 0 until late in the third quarter.
The Heat’s defense largely lives and dies by the three, rather they choose to stack the paint and rely on the athleticism of Wade and James to close out on the perimeter shooters. It the the reason teams like New York, Denver and Orlando have success against Miami. Tonight, somewhat uncharacteristically, the Bulls were on target from deep and most of the production was from their bench.
For the second consecutive game, Miami were obliterated on the boards, which is usually the staple of their victories. The taller teams give the Heat rebounding issues as Miami continually look to play with a small lineup to get mismatches for James and Wade. The Bulls were +16 on the boards, snatching 14 offensive rebounds, more than half Miami’s defensive total.
Whilst points in the paint and fast break points were dead even, the Bulls had a much more efficient shooting performance, registering 47% from the field, over 50% from three and over 90% from the line. An incredible 56 points from their bench was the key to Chicago’s win and an indication of how the Heat’s second unit problems that plagued their season last year continue to linger.
Just one of Chicago’s starters had a positive +/- but their entire bench were in the black. For Miami, Bosh and Wade finished with -16 and -13 respectively. James was the only Heat player that played 15 minutes or greater to finish with a positive number in this category with +5.
The reliance on LeBron James, despite the talent the team possesses, is staggering.