The LeBron James “Championship Repeat Tour” is back on track. In fact, it seems people were over-crediting the tenacious Bulls D with stifling King James and the Heat in Game 1.
Rusty from chilling after a quick sweep of the lowly Bucks, seems like a more accurate explanation than the Bulls straight thugging Miami into submission.
Chicago was rolling having already sharpened its playoff teeth and having already dealt with elbow-flying, down-to-the-wire basketball in a seven-games series against the Brooklyn Nets. You can say they owned the momentum and carry-over adrenaline rush.
It took a game for the Heat to settle back into destruction mode and to realize that, even swamped with injuries, the Bulls are NOT Milwaukee.
Much has been made of the Bulls physical play, dating back to a regular season game in late March after which, Lebron complained about hard fouls by Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich as not being "basketball plays." Neither was called for a flagrant, but James said Gibson collared him on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter.
Some suggested the Bulls had figured out a way to get under LeBron’s skin, disrupt his game and slow him down. All anybody was thinking was, “Let me find out LBJ can dish it but can’t take it.”
After all, Chicago used the same ruthless style to stop Miami’s 27-game winning streak. Maybe they could use it to end the Heat’s quest for back-to-back chips.
Those who haven’t entirely bought into James’ invincibility are always looking for chinks in his armor. LeBron has a teammate named Dwyane Wade who is battling busted knees but took it upon himself to set the tone of this throwback type of game. Early in the first quarter, Wade responded to Marco Belinelli’s hard foul by throwing the ball at him. He earned the game’s first tech and it went from there.
Everybody was on their Olivia Newton-John ‘80s swagger. Birdman Andersen was hip-checking cats and being highly aggressive and demonstrative. LBJ and Joakim Noah mixed it up. Technical fouls were winning lottery tickets, because every player seemed to want one —and the refs obliged.
It was a telling sign, showing the versatility and mental composition of Miami. They are a team of chameleons, ready to play whatever style is offered, and ready to prove that they’ll run through hell in gasoline drawers to defend their championship.
"This is going to be a physical series," Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra told USA Today. “Nobody’s trying to take it over the top. We have our game that we play that's tough but it's clean."
Like every other basketball obstacle that quickly becomes another conquest for Miami, the Heat established their own physical intensity from the jump.
Chicago was supposed to be the bully, but instead Miami took out the belt and dispensed whelps, drop kicks and deadly blows.
The way it’s looking, the Bulls don’t have enough offense to win. In fact, their aggressive style is only serving to help Miami get some early-round preparation for potential playoff opponents such as the Knicks, Pacers, and Grizzlies -- who also utilize physical play, taunting and intimidation.
Diminishing the Heat’s effectiveness with wild-boy tactics was supposed to be the best bet for a Miami downfall. You can’t outscore them. They defend like the border patrol. Speed and three-point shooting? It’s always on-time when required. The only option that seems to be left for the rest of the league is prayer.