Tag: Miami Chicago

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four

NBA Playoffs: Back in sweet home Chicago can Bulls extend series?


In one key way, the Eastern Conference Finals have been a lot like the Western Conference Finals — it has been about the fourth quarter.

Miami has turned up the defensive pressure late and the Bulls have wilted in the final stanza. In the fourth quarter of the last three games the Bulls have shot 32.7 percent and been outscored 64-47. The fourth quarter is when LeBron James has switched on to Derrick Rose and the result is Rose shooting 2-of-11 in the last three fourth quarters combined.

Desperate and down 3-1 and heading back home for an elimination game, look for the Bulls to have a better fourth quarter, to finally close out a game well. They had better, or this series is over.

Back at home, look for the Bulls role players to feel more comfortable and play better. For one, expect Taj Gibson has to give the Bulls more, both on defense and in transition. Also Kyle Korver has to hit a shot — the Bulls still need to knock down some threes and long twos to make the Heat pay for packing the paint on them.

Expect to see the same out of the Heat bench we saw last game — Erik Spoelstra has gone to a tight eight-man rotation with Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller being the only guys seeing big minutes off the bench. Both have played well but can that continue under pressure on the road? Probably, especially with Haslem, who has been what the Heat needed inside. The Bulls need to force Miami deeper into that bench by getting some guys in foul trouble, either by the penetration of Rose or some other guys stepping up.

One interesting matchup to watch is Joakim Noah over on Chris Bosh — something the Bulls made a priority of in Game 4 (and should have worked harder to do in earlier games rather than letting him get switched off so easily). Bosh has been the best Heat player in a couple games, doing a great job of mixing midrange shots with drives, and if he is again the Bulls will not be headed back to Miami.

At some point soon, Dwyane Wade is going to go off. He has not looked himself this series and was doing a lot of extra shooting and work Wednesday. If Game 5 is when he does go off there will be no Game 6.

On the flip side, who is going to take the pressure off Rose? Carlos Boozer you say? Well, they need him. But they need someone to create their own shot and be a better outside shooter in this series. Miami has been able to pack the paint and wall off Rose because they do not fear the outside shot of the Bulls. That is particularly true in the fourth quarter.

The Heat are the better team and they have closed games better. But this is still a close series — Rose drains that fadeaway over LeBron and this series is even. That’s not how it went down, but these two teams are close. Close enough that the Bulls have hope — win Game 5 at home, steal one on the road and suddenly it’s one game for all the marbles.

But to get there, the Bulls need to be desperate. They need to knock down shots. And they need to close out the fourth quarter better. Because you know the Heat will.

Mike Miller playing through physical, emotional pain

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four

Mike Miller is going to be a big key for the Miami Heat come the NBA finals. Even in trying to close out the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 Thursday night.

But it’s not going to be easy for him, physically or emotionally.

Physically, Miller is playing through a ruptured tendon in his left thumb, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at practice on Wednesday. This is exactly what he did to his right thumb in training camp and why he missed the first three months of the season. That he is playing at all is impressive, and this explains his at times up and down play. That said, he had a big Game 4 for the Heat and they need more of that.

On a personal note, Miller is playing through a difficult personal issue as well, reports Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.

His wife gave birth to a baby girl last Thursday in a South Florida hospital, but the newborn daughter has remained in the intensive care unit with an undisclosed health issue. Miller left with the team on Wednesday to travel to Chicago.

Our thoughts are with him and his family.

But it’s not going to get any easier, the role the Heat will ask Miller to play is only going to grow with each game.

Winderman: Mike Miller gives Heat big thumbs up

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Four

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.