There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of NBA pundits picking the Heat over the Bulls are over simplifying their analysis of the Bulls Heat match-up. Most are breaking it down by saying it's two superstars over one. Chris Mullin, a typically shrewd NBA mind, says this series boils down to two perimeter teams and the Heat have more perimeter firepower with their two superstars so they will win. However, I say they are way undervaluing a few very important factors in this match-up: the last minute re-emergence of Carlos Boozer and his typically-stellar playoff presence and the enormous advantage the Bulls bench has over the Heat bench. The Heat bench is a haphazard mix of aging and/or one-dimensional talent, which collectively is not greater than the sum of its parts, which is what you have with the Bulls bench.
Last but not least, when Tom Thibodeau tells his team to jump, they ask how high. Whereas King James (LeBrick) is the dominant personality on the Heat. Spoelstra is smart but he is not a big time presence, certainly not enough to over ride LeBron when needed, in contrast to how Phil Jackson got MJ and Kobe to bend to his will when their teams needed to go that direction.
A big factor that is skewing the Heat's so-called slight dominance over the Bulls is based on how quickly and relatively easily they dispatched the big, bad Boston Celtics. Well, folks, as a few sharp NBA observers have pointed out, the current version of the C's is not as big and certainly not as bad in a good way as the best Celtics team of recent vintage. This version of the Celtics does not intimidate in the paint and their aging legs get all rubbery in the fourth quarter. However, the factor that probably sabotaged the Celts the most was the mercurial moods of the extraordinarily immature Rajon Rondo.
Early in the series, Rondo played quite indifferently until late in game. I interpreted his reticence as the by-product of renewed anger over the trade of Perkins, his best bud. There is little doubt he wanted Perkins having his back once they took on their hated rival. It appears to me that Rondo's inability or unwillingness to control this anger resulted in him letting down his teammates and fans. If this really is the case, it is absolutely inexcusable. It looks to me like Karma wasn't digging this act, as well. Was it a coincidence that relatively soon after Rondo jets finally got turned on full blast that he incurred a difficult-to-overcome injury? I don't think so.
With all these elements going against the Celtics, supposedly, the LeBrick version of LeBron has exorcised his game-ending demons. However, he performed these so-called heroics against a team that offered relatively weak resistance on defense because of their old legs, and blew opportunity after opportunity on offense probably because their point guard was playing with one good arm. The C's blew at least one of their four losses, if not more, on their own, as compared to the Heat outright outplaying them for the win.
This takes us to the next series, where normally I would agree with my brother, who has said for years that home court advantage in the playoffs is overrated. This is something the MJ-era Bulls proved fairly often. However, this series may be the exception to that rule. When the high-flying Heat coming flying down the court like the proverbial unstoppable force, they will be meeting the NBA's latest version of the unmovable object in the likes of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, presumably Kurt "The Enforcer" Thomas and even the most unlikely of defensive stalwarts, Carlos Boozer.
Booz seems to be getting better with the Bulls' defensive rotations but for the last few games, he has had his moments of being a rebounding rock. Now imagine if the Bulls contest the Heat's shots and start chipping away at the Heat's confidence in taking their shots. Continue to imagine this going on while a very hostile crowd, which has a major case of the "I hate your guts cause you jilted my team" hangover, is screaming God-knows-what at the apparently thin-skinned LeBrick. This leads me to conclude the Bulls will have quite the home court advantage. Under these, shall we say, "Heat"-ed circumstances, it's quite possible the ghosts of past playoff failures might end up dancing around in the psyche of LeBrick James.
From the Bulls' perspective, timing is everything, as the old playoff Boozer of the past has broken out of his cocoon and, slightly more importantly, the mojo that had the Bulls dominating team after team during most of the season has also broken free from wherever it was buried in the Bulls' collective consciousness.
I am picking the Bulls in 6, in good part because I obviously believe the Boozer everyone has waited for is here to stay for the short remainder of a long season. Another aspect in the Bulls' favor that is really being ignored is the Bulls quality and depth in their bigs as compared to the one-dimensional, flawed characters manning the Heat's frontcourt. This especially includes one of the so-called Big 3, the soft-as-tissue-paper Chris Bosh.
Just about every thing I have read or heard completely dismisses the three wins the Bulls had over the Heat. This frontcourt disparity between the two teams was a big factor in the Bulls winning every head to head regular season contest. Those games also did not include the strong Boozer we are seeing now, so that disparity has actually gotten wider regardless of the improvement of Joel Anthony. Bosh at his worst deplores any physical contact anywhere on the court, but especially in the paint where it counts the most. He seemingly likes physical contact about as much OCD-afflicted TV character Monk.
It would be remiss of me to address this series without including the Bulls' most important player, Derrick Rose. Simply put, I love and respect this kid as much has I have any Chicago athlete. His heart is at least as big as the spacious environs we call Chicagoland. He seemingly has more guts, class and heart in his little pinky than LeBron has in his 255-pound body. In the Bulls last game, his half court passing was unusually crisp and sound.
My simple breakdown of this series is this: if the Bulls, along with Rose, can provide during their games at least one other legitimate scoring option throughout their games, the Bulls will beat the Heat or any other team they face in these playoffs. This, along with their will-breaking defense, will be more than enough to beat the Heat.
This article also appears on www.tompappssportsnews.com