As the Bulls prepare to take on the Miami Heat in what will undoubtedly be one of the most watched and debated NBA Eastern Conference Finals in a long time, I took the time to get to know the enemy a little better. In this particular case, the enemy is represented by Benny Vargas who writes for All U Can Heat, a site much like this one but dedicated to all things Heat. This is the first installment of many that will feature trips into enemy territory to discuss just what this series holds and who will crawl out of it victorious with a year’s subscription to the ultimate bragging rights.
Bold = Pippen Ain’t Easy
BV = Benny Vargas, Miami Heat Writer
I want to start you off with a question I know I will get a biased answer in but I’ll ask it anyways: Who is the bigger factor in this series? Is it Derrick Rose orLeBron James?
BV: The bigger factor will be everyone around those two. We know we’re going to get 24-36 from James and Rose every game. The question then becomes who else steps up their game. That is what will tilt the outcome more than either of the stars.
I’m going to bring up a stat I know a lot of Heat fans are scoffing at right now and I want your thoughts on it: The Bulls swept the Heat during the regular season, what do you think that will do to the psyche of the Heat? Is it going to play mind games of intimidation or will it serve as motivation to prove the critics wrong?
BV: If Chicago wins Games 1 and 2 I think Miami’s psyche can be seriously brought into question. Other than that I put a lot of stock in the regular season series, but in looking at it, I feel it’s an advantage for Miami. They lost what 3 games by less than 10 points total? This despite playing without LeBron in one of the contests and the Heat team you are looking at now is very different then the one that lost by 1 to the Bulls in Miami. I think with Pat Riley pulling the strings behind the scenes everything from the Bulls sweeping the regular season series, to their number one seeding and Derrick Rose’s MVP will be used as fuel for the fire.
In the same vein, the Heat have yet to win in the United Center this year and they’ll need to do that numerous times if they want to win. Do you believe the Heat will be able to get over this hump because the Pacers and Hawks were able to so easily?
BV: Miami needs only win once in Chicago and then just hold serve on home court to win the series. Do I think they can win at the United Center? Without a doubt. The Heat had one of the best road records in the league. They did this while being the rooted against feverishly every time they entered an opponents building. But if they were able to deal with the crowd noise in Cleveland during LeBron’s return and win a Xmas day showdown in Los Angeles along with a playoff game at the Garden, then they should be able to duplicate Atlanta’s ability to take one in Chi-Town.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have really finally begun to click during this postseason and it’s showing in their domination of anyone they encounter. What else is different now that this team has kicked it into postseason championship mode?
BV: Ball Movement… was the single biggest improvement from October til now. Miami has learned to move the ball much better, granted their half court game still isn’t anything to brag about but they have developed much better cohesion on offense and are better than almost anyone at transitioning from defense to offense. James and Wade on a fast break together is a delight to see. As for what they’ve done differently since the playoffs started that’s easy Wade and James have taken their game to another level the way stars do during the post season. Wade especially has shown how dominany he can be. For example in the regular season he averaged 12 points a game in 4 contests vs Boston. Then in the playoffs that figure skyrocketed to 30 points a game. He more than anyone can greatly influence the series and tilt it in Miami’s favor.
Chris Bosh has largely been seen as the tag-a-long kid by those outside of Miami. But so far this postseason we are starting to see him earn his money and we are starting to see why Pat Riley wanted his slim body rebounding the ball against bigger more immobile guys. How do you feel about Chris Bosh and his place on this team? Is he overpaid for what he is doing and is he earning his money? What does he have to do against the Bulls to be effective?
BV: Is he over payed? I don’t know. I mean the guy could command more money elsewhere. Several teams would have given him the max and he came to Miami at a discount price. That said he doesn’t deserve to make as much as Wade and James based on performance but Miami is fortunate to have him because despite all that he lacks as far as physicality he is still one of the leagues top power forwards. Miami just needs him to get to the basket a bit more and he has to up his shot blocking because it was seriously lacking versus Boston.
The Bulls have been touted the whole year for their deep rotation and great bench. Not to sound to trash talkish, but the Heat really don’t have much of a bench and it matches up terribly against that of the Bulls “Bench Mob”. How do you see this effecting the series?
BV: Miami’s bench knows its role. The Bulls clearly have more depth but the Heat can overcome that. It would be great to have a James Jones 20 point performance off the bench at least once more but that’s not going to make or break Miami. The bench is a highly overrated factor because starters such as James , Wade and Bosh will all rack up close to 40 minutes a game. Udonis Haslem may provide a much needed boost in the post for the Heat should he be able to contribute in this series.
Derrick Rose is the MVP but he has proven he can’t carry this team all on his own all the time. What about the Bulls attack scares you most as a Heat fan? Is it Rose alone or is there more to be cautious of in Chicago?
BV: Rose has a level of confidence right now that is eerily similar to Dwyane Wade back during his third season when he led Miami to a championship. Derrick is seemingly getting to the basket at will so Miami will have their hands full with him. Now as for the rest of the team thats a bigger question mark. Chicago has shown they can come at you in waves. If their role players have success in Games 1 and 2 then it could be a long series or even worse a short one for Miami. One battle worth highlighting will be at the 4 spot. Miami will need Bosh to match if not edge Boozer’s output to give the Heat its best chance of advancing.
It has been said the only team that can beat Miami is Miami. Do you believe this is true or is there an area the Bulls can expose to beat the Heat?
BV: No. Other teams can beat Miami. The Heat are not that complete yet where they are unstoppable. Now in a year or two after they’ve added a few key pieces through mid level exceptions then that may very well be the case.
Finally, a question I know I will get a biased answer for but I have to ask it: Who represents the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA Final and why do they win this series, the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls?
BV: Chicago has had a terrific season and they have made a huge leap forward. That said it wouldn’t be as big a letdown if they didn’t make the Finals then if Miami fails to advance. The Heat have more pressure but they have more confidence at the moment. Interviewing Wade yesterday one can tell he is at a place he hasn’t been at mentally since 2006. Same with James and his confidence. Even Bosh is feeding off his insecurities and upping his play. Derrick Rose deserved the MVP this year but his overall game isn’t better than Wade or James. As spectacular as he has been Derrick will need alot of help from his teammates to get past Miami. The Heat will win the series in 6 maybe less.