After all the hoopla surrounding the 2011 NBA playoffs, we are about to see the top two regular season teams from the Eastern Conference battle it out for a place in the Finals. The Miami Heat and, more specifically, LeBron James, exorcised their demons by ousting their nemesis the Boston Celtics in the Semi-Finals 4-1, with James scoring the final ten points of the game to quiet reports that he is more choker than closer. The Chicago Bulls, on the other hand, fought through a battle-tested Atlanta Hawks by shutting them down with heavy doses of a newly in-form Carlos Boozer and holding them to below 40 percent shooting twice, while shutting down their perimeter scoring and never allowing more than 7 three-pointers in a contest.
Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat With three of the top ten regular season scoring leaders featured in this game, one could be forgiven for thinking that this one will be decided in shootouts. It won’t.With both teams ranking in the top 5 in most major defensive categories, the winner of this one will be the team who can keep the opposing superstars out of the paint. With all of Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade being able to get the rim with an unbelievable array of moves, the abilities of the big men on both teams to keep them out of the paint will be the deciding factor in this one. The Bulls have a distinct advantage at the point, but James and Wade will be able to overpower Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver and, to a lesser degree, Luol Deng (although Deng is a feisty defender who has the ability to make James pay on the defensive end). So again, even with three of the NBA’s top 10 players squaring off in this one, it will come down to the match-ups of the big men in the paint. While Carlos Boozer could use his strength to destroy Chris Bosh offensively, Joakim Noah is the man on the defensive end to roll over onto Bosh to contain his excellent mid-range jumper. In this instance, the Bulls have the biggest advantage in the front court over Bosh and Miami’s committee-run Center position. Key to the series: The key to this series will be late-game shooting. Both teams are defensively dominant and won’t let the other team get too far ahead of them. Where Wade will dominate Bogans offensively, the help defense he’ll need to stop Rose getting to the paint will open up mid-range jumpers from both Bogans and Deng. If Korver can get hot like he did in the early games against the Hawks, he will be able to keep the Heat’s defense honest and open up the paint for Rose. Boozer’s resurgence will be necessary for the Bulls to get through this one. With a more impressive Chicago bench and more balanced attack, they should be able to get past the Dynamic Duo thanks to home court advantage, where they went 36-5 during the season. Prediction: Bulls win 4-3