Every book that I checked had the Miami Heat as the series favorites against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals as well as the slight NBA title favorite before Game 1 vs. the Bulls on Sunday night. Yet what else does Chicago have to do to prove itself? The Bulls played perhaps the best half of basketball of any team so far this postseason in turning a 48-48 halftime lead into a 103-82 statement that improved the Bulls to 4-0 against Miami this season.
Heat at Bulls Betting Story Lines
You name the stat and the Bulls probably dominated in the opener. Chicago had eight turnovers at halftime – when Derrick Rose (28 points, six assists) took control of the locker room in a rare emotional speech – and just one in the second half. By comparison, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had eight turnovers just between them. LeBron and Wade were stifled by that Tom Thibodeau defense, shooting a combined 12-for-32 as Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer hassled Wade and Luol Deng was brilliant against James. Anytime one of the Heat’s dynamic duo went into the paint, two more guys were waiting. It was truly a clinic. And Chicago didn’t let Miami get out and run, which is when the Heat are at their best. After eight first-quarter fast-break points, the Heat had all of two more. Chris Bosh played well with 30 points, but the Bulls would be more than happy to let Bosh lead the team in scoring every game and be the primary offensive weapon.
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The two other keys to Game 1 were the Bulls’ rebounding and the two benches. Chicago outrebounded Miami 45-33 in the opener, marking the fourth time in four games the Bulls have held the edge in the boards vs. Miami. In fact, Miami averaged less rebounds against the Bulls (33 per game) than it did against any other team in the regular season. The Bulls grabbed 29.4 percent of all available offensive rebounds this season. In Game 1, they grabbed over half. They scored 1.11 points per extra possession, gained from a rebound, in the first 82 games. In Game 1, thanks largely to Joakim Noah, they scored 1.63. Chicago had an edge in second-chance points of 31-8 in the opener (Noah had eight offensive rebounds, two more than the entire Heat squad). Look for Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra to play Udonis Haslem much more in Game 2. Haslem has played all of seven minutes in two playoff games after missing most of the regular season, but he is a solid rebounder. Look for Mike Miller to get more minutes as well. He played just 3:28 Sunday and has not played more than eight minutes in any of his eight postseason appearances.
Miller and Haslem can’t be worse than Miami’s bench in Game 1, with that unit scoring 15 points. Chicago’s “Bench Mob” had 28 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and brought a ton of energy – Taj Gibson had two of the best dunks in the NBA this season in that second half.
Heat at Bulls Betting Odds and Key Trends
Chicago opened as a two-point favorite with the total at 181.5, according to NBA odds.
The Bulls are 6-1 at home in the playoffs (4-3 ATS). Miami is 2-3 on the road in the playoffs (2-3 ATS).
Miami has covered just three times in its past 16 as a dog. But it is 4-1 ATS in past five following an ATS loss.
The Bulls have covered eight of their past 10 as a favorite of less than five points.
Chicago is 1-7 ATS in its past eight after scoring at least 100 in its previous game.
The ‘over’ is 6-1 in Miami’s past seven.
The ‘over’ is 4-1 in Chicago’s past five following a win.
Miami is 0-3-1 ATS in the past four meetings.
NBA Picks: Heat at Bulls Predictions
As good as the Bulls were, one has to think the Heat will bounce back. Can Chicago really shoot 10-for-21 from three-point range again? No chance that LeBron and Wade total only 33 points in Game 2. And even as bad as Game 1 was, the Heat will have accomplished their goal if they can win Wednesday night in taking home-court advantage away. Plus, Miami actually did outshoot Chicago in the opener, 47.1 percent to 43.7 percent from the field. It’s just that Chicago had 19 more field-goal attempts.
With all that said, the Heat probably aren’t going to win in Chicago (maybe in South Florida) essentially playing 3-on-5 basketball and with huge disadvantages at center, point guard and the bench. Take Chicago and give the points along with the ‘over’.
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