The Miami Heat are one game away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals after a gritty yet convincing overtime win against the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday. With a formidable 3-1 lead in the series one can’t help but cast one’s eyes on the potential Conference Finals match-up with the 3-2 leading Chicago Bulls. While we do cover the Bulls quite extensively here at Hoop Diary, I thought I would take a statistical look at the (assumed) upcoming series to break down what the Heat will need to do to take out the Bulls. After all, Chicago took all three games off Miami during the regular season. Let’s cover off a few points of emphasis.
With thanks to NBA.com’s Statscube, I’ve taken the opportunity to delve into both team’s patterns over their three meetings this season. Here is what I found.
The first glaring stat here for Miami is that they settled for a huge number of mid-range shots and executed at 35%. This was 7% below the league average and also made up 40% of their field goal attempts. The other notable is that the Heat also converted 50% of their corner three’s over the three games.
The Heat typically found their most success getting to the basket or working the ball for an open trey, anything in the mid-range was a failure. While they shot 63% from the restricted area they still went to the mid-range four times more often. The Chicago defense must be credited with some of this but the uninspired isolations are also a big concern for the Heat.
While these games were generally lower scoring, the Heat saw the biggest reduction in putting points on the board. Averaging over 102 points per contest regularly, this dropped to just 90.3 against the Bulls. The Heat were guilty of playing Chicago’s style in all three games this season and although two out of three were played in the Windy City, the same ratio will apply in the Conference Finals.
Needless to say, the first mission for Miami is to get to the hole. If their offense lacks urgency or becomes stagnant, they cannot rely on isolation pull up jumpers. That method has not worked well for them and their rebounding numbers don’t remedy that. But we’ll cover that in a moment.
Chicago’s mid-range dominance of the Heat is glaring with the Bulls hitting 47% from that part of the floor. Not only does this eclipse the League average by 8% but it also made up 31% of their shot attempts. Miami must do a better job of forcing the Bulls to move the ball, while stopping Derrick Rose penetrating the lane. Easier said than done I would say. The key will be to close down the driving lanes without sacrificing pull up jump shots.
Another thing to consider is Chicago’s poor three-point shooting against Miami this year. The Bulls shot a season average of 36% but were cut down to just 26% against the Heat on 18 attempts per game. The LA Lakers should have perhaps watched some Miami game tape before they played Dallas.
Miami are generally good at rebounding the basketball. The Heat finished 9th in the League in rebounding however they were tied for 26th on the offensive glass. Pair that with a second place on the defensive end and it starts to tell a story. You could say that their #2 ranking in field goal percentage answers that riddle and you would probably be correct. However, against the Chicago Bulls this season their rebounding numbers dropped off dramatically.
Against the Bulls, the Miami Heat dropped from 44 rebounds per game to 33, while Chicago were able to maintain their already #2 ranked average of 43.7.
As the great Pat Riley once said, “rebounds equal rings”. As Basketball fans we are all aware of the importance of Playoff rebounding especially and Miami’s big men (and others) will need to lift the intensity on the glass if they want to beat Chicago.
Some final considerations for this upcoming match-up include the shortening of rotations for both squads during the Playoffs. The Bulls haven’t coped as well as Miami have when it comes to taking your favored seven guys and going for glory. Also the Heat are currently playing against a team whose defense was built by the current Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau. It’s got to be good getting a sneak peak into that defense before playing the Bulls.
So there you have it, a very small but granular look at some aspects of the (assumed) upcoming series between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat. It’s certainly worth noting some of these stats before you watch Game one as these are the main reasons Miami came up short against the Bulls in the regular season. If they can arrest some of these issues, they’re a great chance to take the series and advance to the NBA Finals. If they do as they always did, they’ll get what they always got… which was an 0-3 record against Chicago.