Tag: Bulls Heat

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four

Winderman: Mike Miller gives Heat big thumbs up


What has no thumbs and yet could give the Heat a grip on the NBA title for the next few seasons?

Mike Miller.

Still recovering from preseason surgery on his right thumb and poised for offseason surgery on his left thumb, the veteran swingman stands as an example of how much a player with a mere eight digits still can benefit the right team.

No, Miller has not been the star of these Eastern Conference finals for the Heat. That would be a take-your-choice mix of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and possibly even Udonis Haslem.

And he hasn’t necessarily even been the Heat’s best reserve, with cases that could be made for Haslem and Mario Chalmers.

But because all 10 of his toes seemingly are in working order, his ability simply to make it to the court for extended minutes has been huge in the Heat’s climb to a 3-1 series lead entering Thursday’s Game 5 at the United Center.

With Miller available as an extra wing alongside James and Dwyane Wade, he has provided a two-fold boost.

Foremost, he allows the Heat to shift James onto Derrick Rose, while still leaving enough on the perimeter to defend the Bulls’ wings.

Beyond that, he allows Erik Spoelstra to play without a true point guard. And when your true point guards are Chalmers and Mike Bibby, that can be a very good thing.

Further, with Miller one of the league’s best rebounders at his position, it also affords the Heat the opportunity to go more often without a true center.

The knock on the Heat, entering these playoffs, and rightfully so, had been their shortcomings at center and point guard.

At the close of Tuesday’s Game 4 overtime thriller, neither a point guard nor a center was within view, and that makes the Heat quite the sight.

At the start of last summer’s free agency, Miller was among the first players the Heat interviewed. Pat Riley and his staff were well aware that James wanted to play alongside Miller, which also is why the Cavaliers and every other LeBron-luring suitor had contacted Miller.

Now Miller, whose son, Maverick, is named after James’ manager Maverick Carter, is providing a direct boost to James’ championship hopes, as well as allowing James to make a few points at the point.

By next season, Miller might even come with thumbs attached.

For now, in his own way, he is doing plenty when it comes to James moving closer to securing a grip on that first championship ring.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Thibodeau thinks Derrick Rose not getting the calls

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Three

Derrick Rose has averaged 6.5 free throws a game so far in the Eastern Conference Finals, which is down just slightly from the 6.9 trips to the line he averaged during the regular season.

But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was expecting a lot more.

And he’s blaming the officials. Kind of. In an “I don’t want to get fined” kind of way, as reported at the Palm Beach Post.

“He hasn’t been able to get to the line like we thought he would,” the Bulls coach said. “There’s a lot of contact, and he hasn’t gotten calls.”

The fact is the referees have let this be a physical series for the most part — as they should in the Eastern Conference Finals. The game should get more physical and the referees should let them play at this point in the season.

Part of being a champion is being able to adjust and play through that. The Heat are dealing with it much better right now.

To add to Bulls woes, Omer Asik done for season

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Two

Omer Asik barely made it out on the court as it was.

The Bulls Turkish backup center had a lower leg strain that would have had him sitting during the regular season but he went through warm-ups and gave it a go Tuesday night.

He was on the court for less than a minute when LeBron James fell into his leg. Asik left the court never to return.

Now he is done for the rest of this series, according to a tweet from Turkish journalist Ismail Senol (via SB Nation):

Bulls’ center Ömer Aşık is out for season. Ankle injury will keep him out for six to eight weeks.

CSN Chicago has confirmed this.

That’s going to mean more minutes for Joakim Noah if he can stay out of foul trouble, plus a little burn for old man Kurt Thomas. Both of which hurt the Bulls depth, Asik has been good in the playoffs in the limited role given him.

It’s not known how this would impact Asik playing in EuroBasket for his native Turkey this summer, the tournament where bids for the 2012 Olympics will be decided. The lockout and insurance for players will play a big role in that as well.

Video: Derrick Rose just abuses rim, Joel Anthony

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four

In the first half of Tuesday night’s Game 4, Derrick Rose attacked the rim as hard as he has all playoffs. Maybe all season. He was determined to break down the Heat’s defense.

One result of that was one of the best dunks of the playoffs — a monster throwdown where he weaves through the defense then just posterizes Joel Anthony.

As much as you see him do things like this, Rose’s explosive athleticism can still just be jaw dropping at times.

NBA Playoffs: Bulls bring energy but shooting betrays them

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four

Derrick Rose was true to his word, he attacked the rim with a recklessness and aggressiveness not seen in this series.

The Bulls played defense with energy and desperation not seen this series.

And it was not enough — in the end they simply did not shoot the ball well enough from the outside to space the floor and create room for penetration, which led to more jumpshots they missed.

As a team, the Bulls shot 27.1 percent from beyond 10 feet in Game 4, and 25 percent from three. (stats via Hoopdata)

On the other side of the floor, Mike Miller came off the bench — and for Heat fans back from the dead — to knock down outside shots that helped key the Heat’s 101-93 victory.

The Bulls in the first quarter got the game to go their way. They were physical on defense and slowed the Heat attack, they created turnovers and turned those into some fast break points. But through it all their outside shots were still not falling, and as the game wears on the guys got tired the Bulls more and more seemed to settle for the jump shot. Yet those were not falling as the Bulls were 6-of-24 from three.

Neither the Heat nor the Bulls run a lot of post up plays, both get their points in the paint primarily through penetration. This has been a fantastic defensive series — both teams have walled off the paint and been very physical with whomever drives the ball. Even with some of the best penetrators in the game — Rose, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade — attacking the rim has been a chore.

The Heat have put up a wall of players in front of Rose when he wants to drive. With the Bulls shooting 6-for-24 from three, the Heat do not have to come out of the paint to respect that shot. They can create those walls and pack the paint. In the first half Rose attacked that anyway and had the monster dunk over Joel Anthony. He got some easy buckets (for him anyway) in transition. But in the second half, as he got tired, he started to settle more for jump shots. His went 1-of-9 from three. Kyle Korver is the designated shooter but he was 0-for-3 from three. Nobody on the Bulls was able to knock down shots.

Mike Miller changed that dynamic for the Heat. He went 2-of-5 from three and 5-of-8 overall, finishing with a dozen points. The Bulls had to respect his outside shot and defend it. There was a reason he was a game high +36 on the night.

That drew the Bulls defense out and gave the Heat more room inside for penetration and offensive rebounds. Miami had just two fewer offensive rebounds than Chicago (10-8) and that is a battle the Bulls need to win big.

“Mike gave us a real boost,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game in an interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Real aggressive looking for his opportunities, and they do such a tremendous job of protecting the paint and he was able to break free a couple of times. We love it. We love him even when he’s taking shots he doesn’t think he should.”

At the end of the game, with no other shooters a threat, the Bulls really had no choice but to flatten out and have Rose attack in isolation against LeBron. If Rose had not been so exhausted from the long minutes in a physical game he might have tried to get to the rim rather than settle for a jumper over a taller LeBron, but we will never know. What we do know is that shot missed.

LeBron and the Heat have taken their share of jumpers in this series because of the Bulls defense. But they hit 38.5 percent in this game, they knocked their jumpers down. Or at least enough to be up 3-1 in the series and in total command.

And the Bulls are not going to win one more game, let alone three, without knocking down some outside shots. It’s the only way.