1 down, 3 to go: The Bulls Oracular Spectacular
BY BRANDON WALL --- Check out TUP legend Rick's SBNation piece "Bulls, Heat Genuflect at the Altar of Oprah" --- Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a two for one deal - not only did the Bulls play arguably their greatest game of the season, the Miami Heat completely melted down like the gooey nacho cheese they are. And while the Chicagoland area is still revelling in victory, don't expect tonight's Game 2 matchup to be anywhere near as lopsided. There has been a flurry of articles and blog posts in the last few days about a 'desperate' Miami Heat team. That there is a lot riding on this game for either team. That this is karma for the bizarre celebration after beating the Celtics. That now there is 'pride' and reputation on the line. I say to hell with all of that: this is the flipping Eastern Conference Finals. You don't get here by being soft or superstitious; you get here by being the best. Every single game in this series is going to be an epic battle akin to Lord of the Rings; a venerable D-Day of the two best teams in the league. You think LeBron James is worried about his pride right now? No, he just wants to win a fucking game. Here are the biggest factors for tonight's Game 2. Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose Don't expect another combined 33 points between the two Miami juggernauts. It is a rare night indeed when one of them plays cold. We had both of them shooting flat in Game 1. Wade scored just 6 points in the second half for the love of Pete; that simply will not happen tonight. If LeBron and D-Wade are playing well, tonight's game is going to be tough. No other factors matter more than this right here: the Bench Mob could score 50 points, Noah could pull down every board, Boozer could play his best game of the year. If either, or, god forbid, both, Miami superstars are on fire, tonight's game will be a monumental battle. Derrick Rose is reaching critical Rose-y ness, blaming himself for the Bulls' shortcomings and crediting his teammates for their successes. After those two scary turnovers early in the game, Rose took Kanye West's advice and kept his love locked down. You lose. Rose scored a more-than-acceptable 28 points on 6 assists, including 3 treys in Game 1. Good for his standards, great for most others. Rose knows he needs to go big in this series, there is no room for a cold night. Expect at least two 40+ point games from him this series. Hopefully that will come when the Bulls need it most. Hopefully that night won't be tonight. Rebounds
The Bulls provided a formidable Berlin Wall of rebounding, pulling down 64 boards to the Heat's measly 39. No doubt that the Heat will change their tactics after that disappointing showing. The first change to make is to have LeBron and D-Wade actually make their shots, but expect a far more aggressive Heat team crashing the net. Miami might rotate in their larger players in to compete with the likes of Noah and Boozer, but that will come at a cost the Bulls will be ready to exploit.
The Bench Mob
Does this even need an explanation? The Bulls' bench put up 28 points and nabbed 19 rebounds in Game 1 compared to the Heat bench's 15 points + 8 rebounds. The Bulls had the astounding season they had not only because of a stellar starting lineup, but because their bench was deeper than a college kid taking Intro to Philosophy.
While the Bench Mob's statistics are certainly impressive (indeed, they probably rival some lesser teams' starting lineups) they definitely have qualities that aren't recorded on the official score book. The attitude the Bench Mob carries with them is just as much a part of their game as slamming down fat jams. Omar Asik is just a voluminous Human being. The amount of space he occupies on either end of the court is surreal.
Boozy Woozy gave us (what now passes for respectable) 14 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes via Game 1. Better than his performance lately, probably not living up to the expectations of Bulls fans, but he came to play the first time around. Boozer knows this is crunch time now more than ever, both for the Bulls and for him as a player. If Boozer does anything less than repeat his decent performance, we could be in for a tough game.
Tonight's prediction? Bulls by 1.
Game 2 tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.
Brandon Wall is an intern-writer for Tremendous Upside Potential. He enjoys walking on viaducts and wood carving.