You gotta love the passionate discussions going on about the Heat-Bulls series. Down here, it feels like no on is giving the Bulls a chance because Derrick Rose is too much of a one-man show and the Bulls have struggled in games against the Pacers and Hawks. Elsewhere, there are those who believe the Bulls' defense and depth will be too much for the Bulls, and that the regular season record is significant and that Rose can dissect this defense even more thoroughly than his first two playoff opponents because of the holes at point guard and center.
Well, here's the thing about those arguments. No matter how passionately you feel about your position in this debate, the fact is, these are the Eastern Conference Finals. That means that there should be a debate. A very good debate, because these are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. It shouldn't be easy to pick this series. If it is easy, then that would mean one of these two teams is far and away the best in the league. And that's just not true for either team.
So, let's look into some of the reasons people are picking Chicago. First, those siding with the Bulls are suddenly discrediting the Heat's five-games series win over the Celtics. They're looking at the 4-1 result and calling the Celtics old and injured and unworthy of challenging the Heat.
Losing Rajon Rondo was problematic for the Celtics, yes. He's one of their best defenders on and off the ball, and he's the team's engine on fastbreaks. But he was there and completely healthy for two of the Heat's four wins. And for the final four games of the series, Delonte West played terrific defense, particularly on Dwyane Wade, and actually coupled that with shot-making ability. So it's not as if the Celtics were playing with Carlos Arroyo out there. Were these the Celtics of 2007-08? No. But this was still an excellent defensive team with a balanced offense. It was a relatively short, five-game series, but every game was an intense battle, and the Celtics could've easily won two of those four games they lost.
And by the way, the Bulls enthusiasts who are questioning the quality of team the Heat has beaten in these playoffs should look at Chicago's opponents. What, the Hawks beat the Magic and all of a sudden they're better than the Celtics? No way. And it still took the Bulls six games to get past them.
Regardless of that, though, the truth is every series takes on a personality of its own. So the previous series, how it was won or who the opponent was doesn't matter one lick once the next series starts. So those who are predicting Heat-Bulls based on the results of the previous series have little ground to stand on.
When you get to the actual matchups in this series, there are some interesting takes there also. All of a sudden, the duo of Keith Bogans and Luol Deng is supposed to be a good defensive pairing against Wade and LeBron James, respectively.
Let's go back in time, shall we? Wade used to toy with Bogans when he was with the Bobcats and Magic. His face would light up when he saw Bogans in front of him. And Deng? He's a fine defender. He's not Tony Allen. He's not even Shane Battier. He's just fine.
What makes that Bulls defense very good isn't the individual defenders, necessarily. It's the system. If any one player makes that defense especially strong, it's probably Joakim Noah, the same way Kevin Garnett is to Boston, because Noah is long and disruptive but can also move to spots quickly and is instinctive. And he can finish the play with a rebound. The Heat has just seen this Tom Thibodeau defense against Boston, because Thibodeau built that Boston defense as an assistant there. The Bulls have some different strengths based on personnel, of course, but the Heat's big trio should know where there shots are coming from based on the previous series.
The Bulls supporters will also harp on depth as an advantage. Well, the Bulls absolutely have the depth advantage. But here's the thing. They NEED depth to succeed. The Heat has proven time and again that if the large three are on their game, the rest of the rotation doesn't need to score at all. It's not often that the team requires even double-figures from anyone else. Only when one or more of the big three are off does the team require help from a James Jones or a Mario Chalmers in the scoring column. And that's when the Heat's success comes into question. Because no one's ever sure when one of those players will provide the necessary support.
And then there's the power forward angle. Of course, those leaning toward Chicago will remember Chris Bosh's 1-for-18 and Carlos Boozer's strong finale against the Hawks and say that it's at the very least a push in that department. But the truth is this: Boozer has had three good games in 11 tries for the Bulls. And the coach hasn't even trusted him late in games throughout the postseason thus far. Bosh, meanwhile, is averaging significantly better numbers than Boozer in every category except rebounds, where Bosh is only 0.1 rebounds better than Boozer (but still better).
Those supporting the Heat have holes in their theories, too. Rose might have had a few high-volume shooting games in these playoffs, but it's not as if the Heat will be able to force him into those types of games every time out. Rose did average 29 points on an OK 45 percent shooting in the three matchups this season. Granted, the Heat's rotation is quite different than it was in those meetings, but not so much better that the defense can say, with certainty, that it can limit Rose.
And those who believe Wade's gonna average 33.5 points in Chicago, the way he did in the regular season, forget that he has struggled more in Chicago than he has succeeded. There's certainly no guarantee he won't revisit those poor performances.
The truth is, there are plenty of arguments to be made for either side.
The ones that include idiotic reasons like "The Heat players celebrated too much after the Celtics so that means they'll take the Bulls lightly," or "the Bulls aren't supposed to reach the Finals because they haven't slain a longtime nemesis," are ridiculous and should, frankly, be ignored.
But ones that contain actual basketball reasoning, those can lean in either direction. As they should, because this is the NBA's final four. Anything less than a heated competition would be a disappointment.
That said, the call here is the popular, safe and boring pick: Heat in six.