The Chicago Bulls’ season hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing in Derrick Rose’s absence, but Chicago made a statement Friday night by going into Miami and earning a convincing win over the Heat. Despite a combined 66 points from Miami’s Big Three, the Bulls led throughout the second half and held on for a 96-89 win.
As both teams look ahead to the 2013 postseason, here are three key lessons to learn from Friday’s upset:
1. Carlos Boozer really can look like the player the Bulls paid him to be
The key reason that Chicago had the Heat playing from behind all night was that Carlos Boozer absolutely overwhelmed the Miami frontcourt. Whether Chris Bosh or Shane Battier was guarding him, Boozer had his shot dialed in to the tune of 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting from the floor.
Boozer also grabbed six offensive boards to key a monster Chicago effort that saw the Bulls total 19 rebounds on that end of the floor. Overall, Boozer outmuscled the lighter Miami frontcourt for 12 boards and a block on the night.
This is, of course, the kind of performance the Bulls expected out of Boozer on a regular basis when they signed him away from Utah. Chicago fans have to wonder how good this team could have been (and could still be) if Boozer really was playing at this level night in and night out.
2. The Heat are vulnerable to a big lineup
Led by Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls turned in an absurdly dominant rebounding performance. Miami managed just 28 boards in the game to Chicago’s 48.
The biggest concern for the Heat here was their inability to get second-chance points on a night when their three-point shots weren’t falling (5-for-20 from deep). If they find themselves in a postseason series with Chicago or another physical frontcourt, don’t be surprised to see the Heat’s lack of blue-collar post players come back to bite them.
3. The Bulls’ Achilles heel is still unreliable scoring
In the entire fourth quarter, the Bulls made a grand total of five field goals. Just as critical, two of Chicago’s biggest offensive performances on Friday night came from its two least consistent players.
Boozer, of course, is averaging 14.5 points per game (his worst figure since his rookie year) and has rarely shown the kind of go-to shooting touch that he flashed on Friday. Chicago also leaned heavily on the always-streaky Nate Robinson and his 13-point, three-steal outing.
The Bulls are never going to complain about Robinson shooting well, but they’re also never going to be able to rely on his ability to avoid posting a 1-for-12 shooting night at an inopportune time.