NBA Picks: Heat at Bulls Game 5 Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 5/26/2011
Chicago Bulls rookie Head Coach Tom Thibodeau was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year this season, and maybe this isn’t fair to say but it appears that Thibodeau is being outcoached right now in the Eastern Conference Finals by Heat counterpart Erik Spoelstra. Since that Game 1 Bulls blowout, the Heat have looked like the superior team as they handed Chicago a third straight loss (for the first time this season) in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
The Bulls simply don’t have an answer for when the Heat either double-team Derrick Rose or stick LeBron James on Rose in the fourth quarter – did you notice Rose settled for two tough jumpers on two possessions in the final minute against LeBron, including an air ball with a chance to win the game at the buzzer? The Bulls desperately need another player that can create his own shot – that will be Job No. 1 if the Heat end Chicago’s season on Thursday night to get back to their first NBA Finals since beating the Mavericks in six games in 2006.
Heat at Bulls Betting Story Lines
Let’s get to the one key injury first. Bulls center Omer Asik played less than two minutes in Game 4 with what was being called a strained lower leg. Asik tried to play through it, but LeBron landed on his leg after a foul and Asik left and didn’t return. He was diagnosed with a fractured left fibula and is done for the season. Asik’s stats don’t show his value – he’s an excellent defender and high-energy guy who can patrol the paint when Joakim Noah needs rest. Now the Bulls likely will turn to ageless Kurt Thomas, who played terrific when Noah was hurt this season. Thomas doesn’t have the size or energy of Asik but he can rebound and Thomas actually has a jump shot from about 15-18 feet, which Asik absolutely does not. So Thomas playing could be a good thing on the offensive end, at least.
The Bulls’ depth was supposed to be the difference here, but everything changed with that Game 2 performance by Udonis Haslem. And another guy showed up big time in the Game 4 overtime win as Mike Miller had 12 points off the bench. It was Miller’s highest-scoring postseason outing since May 1, 2005, for the Memphis Grizzlies against the Phoenix Suns, when he scored 13 points. In addition, he added a career-playoff-best nine rebounds Tuesday. Miller’s presence on the wing also allowed James to guard Rose.
Speaking of Rose, he continued his fourth-quarter fade in this series. He was 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter and 0-for-3 in overtime of Game 4, finishing 8-of-27 for 23 points and seven turnovers in nearly 49 minutes of play. In the Bulls' past three games, Rose has shot a combined 2-for-13 in the fourth quarter and overtime. When Rose kicks it out to one of his three-pointer shooters, they aren’t making the Heat pay (especially Kyle Korver). Since hitting 10 three-pointers in Game 1, the Bulls have hit just 14-of-57 shots from long range (24.6 percent). Korver was 0-of-3, making him just 3-of-11 in the series.
Teams up 3-1 in NBA best-of-seven series have gone on to win 192 of 200 previous such series. The last team to come back from 1-3 in a conference finals was the Boston Celtics in 1981 against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat are 4-0 in series all-time when up 3-1. The Bulls are 0-5 all-time when down 1-3 in series.
Heat at Bulls Betting Odds and Key Trends
Chicago has opened as a three-point favorite with the total at 180, according to NBA odds.
The Heat are 7-0 ATS in their past seven on one day’s rest.
Miami is 1-7 ATS in its past eight as a playoff dog.
The Bulls are 8-0 ATS in their past eight Thursday games.
The ‘over’ is 5-1 in Miami’s past six.
The ‘over’ is 5-2 in Chicago’s past seven after a loss.
Chicago is 4-4 ATS at home in the playoffs. Miami is 3-3 ATS.
NBA Picks: Heat at Bulls Predictions
Despite all those numbers and reasons to like the Heat listed above, I actually think the Bulls come out like gangbusters and win Game 5 to send the series back to South Florida – where it will likely end. A big key to playing at home is getting the calls from the refs. Thanks to the homecourt whistles, the Heat had a 38-22 advantage in free throw attempts and made 15 more from the stripe overall in Game 4. That won’t happen again. Take the Bulls and the ‘over’.
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