The Chicago Bulls should be commended for their extraordinary effort against the Miami Heat. Missing Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich meant this team had no business making their second round series interesting – if they should have been there at all. But they took Game 1 and played with heart, grit and made themselves a pain in the ass just to do it. That's a lost art in today's game, and the Bulls will be stronger and healthier next season. We have not seen the last of this team.
With that said, everything, ultimately, went according to plan for LeBron James and the Heat. Thinking Miami would sweep their way past Chicago was fools gold, but they still closed out the series with four straight wins.
Now, they can rest up and hope New York can stretch their series against Indiana out as far as possible, and will certainly hope they can pull off a comeback. Down 3-1, with J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony shooting their way into paper bags, that doesn't appear likely. What is likely is another physical series against a young Pacers team looking to stake their claim. Don't think Frank Vogel didn’t notice Tom Thibodeau's refusal to allow Miami to get going on the break. One of the ways to neutralize the Heat is containing their transition offense, and the Pacers have the formula in hand.
Miami will need to hit the film room and figure out a way to get rebounds against Indiana. The Pacers are putting on a clinic against New York, with a double-digit edge in rebounding for their three wins in the series. They took two out of three during the regular season against the Heat, averaging 12 more rebounds per game.
Fortunately for Miami, Dwyane Wade resembled his usual self in Game 5. His knee situation was so serious that there was talk he wouldn't even play against Chicago in the final game of the series. He has averaged nearly 30 points over the last six games against the Pacers, and will be crucial in advancing to the Finals.
The road to repeat has been easy work so far for Miami. That's not going to continue in the next round. So far, the Heat have been hit in the mouth once, but they shook it off to advance to the Conference Finals. That's where the big boys are, and we're about to find out how many more shots the Heat can take.