The Bulls (42-18) head to Miami to finish their 5-game road against the scuffling Heat (43-19). Miami enters the game coming off back-to-back crushing losses, first, by blowing a 24-point 3rd quarter lead at home against the Orlando Magic, then losing by 30 points on Friday night at the San Antonio Spurs. With a revolving door at the point guard spot and a non-existent physical presence in the post, even superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have not been able to overcome the team's flaws. Quite simply, the Heat are a team searching for answers. As they are mere percentage points ahead of the Bulls for the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference, it would be best if Chicago didn't provide them any.
As for the Bulls, Sunday represents a chance to leapfrog one of their chief rivals for the East's top seed. Save for their 2nd half collapse in Atlanta, the Bulls have played solid basketball during their 5-game road trip. Beating Miami could be the exclamation point to catapult them to a top 2 seed in the playoffs.
Heat To Watch For
As if there was ever any doubt, James and Wade will be a handful. Despite the team's struggles the two superstars have both played extremely well and look to be very motivated against the Bulls. Chris Bosh struggled mightily at the United Center two weeks ago, going 1-18 from the field and logging one of the all-time great phantom fouls:
Still, Miami needs this win to restore confidence and to quell the ever-present media throng that continues to say that the sky is falling in Heat-land.
Bulls To Watch
Carlos Boozer has appeared uncomfortable in the Chicago offense since the return of Joakim Noah. With Asik moving ahead of Kurt Thomas in the frontcourt rotation, Coach Tom Thibodeau will need to find the player combinations that allow Boozer to play his best. Derrick Rose continues to struggle from the field, shooting only 36% over his last 6 games. He has said that he will keep shooting, but after going 0-6 from behind the arc on Friday, he was visibly hesitating when given an open shot. While playing with more balance of late, the Bulls still depend on Rose to be the engine that makes the team go. The sooner he breaks out of his shooting funk, the better off Chicago will be.
The fourth and final regular season meeting this year between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat begins at noon CST on ABC (WLS-Ch.7 in Chicago). With only 22 games left, these are the matchups the Bulls need to win to truly be among the league's elite.