The Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat had another epic battle for Eastern Conference supremacy. And in this matchup, the Bulls got only two points from their superstar, Derrick Rose. In fact, Rose shot 1 of 13 in his lowest scoring output of his career.
But it seems like when things donâ€™t look good for the Bulls, they somehow find a way to get it done. The Bulls won the game in overtime by a score of 96-86 behind the strength of a strong bench performance. And with the win, the Bulls extended their lead on the Heat to 4 games, further placing a stronghold on the top seed in the East.
For majority of the year, the Bulls have been without Rose and Rip Hamilton. Combined, both have missed 58 games this year. But what Chicago has accomplished has been even more remarkable due to the fact that Rip and Rose are the best playmakers the Bulls have. The Bulls have overcome the loss of these two with their bench unit, nicknamed the Bench Mob.
The Bench Mob is considered one of the best benches in the NBA and this year they have proved their worth. To give a few examples of the worth of the Bulls bench this year, backup point guard C.J. Watson was thought to get limited minutes again this season behind the reigning MVP. But with Rose out, Watson has stepped right in and led the team to many victories. He has averaged double-figures in Roseâ€™s absence and has hit the big shots for the Bulls as well, as evident by the big three-pointer he hit Thursday night to tie the game.
Another big player that has stepped up and helped this team is Ronnie Brewer. He stepped in when Hamilton was injured at the shooting guard position. And despite not having a classic jump shot, he has been effective as a lockdown defender and as a slasher and finisher around the rim.
Another thing that has never left the Bulls has been defense. The Bulls are in the top five defensively and they are also in the top five in rebounds. The thing about this team is that all five guys on the floor buy into working as a unit defensively. The defense is what helps the Chicago Bulls sustain through the droughts that they go thru offensively. And the defense, along with the play of the Bulls bench, has the Bulls going in the right direction heading into the playoffs.
The Miami Heat, on the other hand, have now lost a few statement games against the Boston Celtics and the aforementioned Bulls. But they have not only lost the games, they have been downright embarrassed in some of them. The Heat seem to have lost their way this season. And for all Heat fans, there is reason for concern.
One thing that I have noticed about the Heat in the last few weeks is they have been letting teams take the fight to them. If you are a championship team, you donâ€™t take what the other team gives you, you do what you want and force them to adjust. And for the Heat to win, they have to force their will on each and every team and that means they must create turnovers and get out on the break. If they have to play half court basketball, then the Heatâ€™s two finishers, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, cannot get out and finish and the Heat become a stagnant offensive team.
Another thing that I have noticed is that the point guard play of the Miami Heat has disappeared. Chalmers has been less consistent the second half of the season and Norris Cole hasgone missing. For the Heat to be at their best, LeBron cannot facilitate the offense because their point guard play is that bad. He must play small forward and do what this team needs him to do: score.
Will the Heat turn it up in time for the playoffs or will the Bulls continue their excellent play? Or will a dark horse arise in the East?Â It should be interesting to see the ride that is the NBA Playoffs. And should these two teams face each other, it should be interesting to see which team comes out with the most to prove.
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