By Paul Silas (as told to John Hareas)
The Heat and Bulls face off in a rematch of last year's First Round matchup in which the Heat topped the Bulls in six intense games. The Heat, the defending NBA champs, start their title defense in Chicago, despite being the higher seed. We called on former NBA coach Paul Silas to break down the series and make a prediction.
During last yearís first round series between these two teams, Shaq and Dwyane Wade led the charge for the Heat, who won in six games. Not surprisingly, both of those guys are going to be at the forefront in deciding how this series plays out. Dwyane Wade being healthy is the whole key. If he and Shaq are healthy, then it is a good possibility that Miami will advance. The Heat are the champs and until theyíre dethroned, theyíre still the team to beat.
WHAT TO EXPECT: BULLS
Chicago is going to try to run Miami, with Ben Wallace trying to get up and down on Shaq. If they play a half court game with Miami, I donít see them doing very well. Theyíve got to run, which means they have to rebound the basketball. Chris Duhon and Kirk Hinrich can really push the basketball, they have Andres Nocioni back, and P.J. Brown is going to rebound his tail off because that is what he does.
If they can defend and rebound, they have a chance. Having said that, how are they going to defend Shaq? When Ben Wallace was with Detroit, they defended him one on one. That worked well because the Pistons had everybody else blocking out and doing the things on their man, saying Shaq was going to beat them but no one else was going to get his. It remains to be seen whether Chicago can do that.
WHAT TO EXPECT: HEAT
One thing you can bet on is that Pat is going to have his team prepared and Chicago dissected. I really believe that they are going to try and make the Bulls shoot from outside and not let them penetrate at all. Without an inside game, they must make those outside shots. On the flip side of that, the Heat are going to go inside to Shaq and try to establish an inside game.
Their outside shooters are going to have to make outside shots because I would assume, unlike Detroit, they are going to double-team Shaq and make other people beat them. If the Heat arenít hitting from outside, then thatís a problem. The other problem for Chicago is Wade and his penetration. How do you stop this guy? You have to give up something. Youíre going to give up wide open shots when he penetrates or he is going to get to the hoop and finish. They are going to have to decide which is the lesser of two evils.
COACHING PHILOSOPHY: SCOTT SKILES
He is going to make you play defense. If you donít, then youíre not going to play for him. He wants to rebound the basketball and run with it. He was doing that during the regular season and I donít see that changing at all. The problem I see is his inside presence. He really has none with Ben Wallace and P.J. Brown. He is going to have to rely on getting easy baskets on the fast break and the outside shooting. If they can shoot 50 percent from outside and get some easy hoops, I think they have a chance.
COACHING PHILOSOPHY: PAT RILEY
Pat isnít going to change. Heís going to develop his inside game first and see how theyíre playing. What heís done in the past is he has overloaded the floor, putting four men on one side of the floor and one up top and then looking over the top to Shaq. As a result there is no weak side help at all. He hasnít done that too much in the regular season, but look for him to do that during the playoffs. Of course Dwyane Wade is the big key if he is healthy, which it looked like he was over the last few games. I think they are going to give him the outside shot to try and curtail his penetration, so he needs to get his touch back. But even when you do that, he has a way of getting to the hoop. Riley is going to defend first, go inside, and look to Dwyane Wade to penetrate and hopefully the other guys are making outside shots.
I did not like the way Chicago played to close out the regular season against New Jersey, a team that isnít as good as the Heat. They needed that win to avoid Miami and they didnít get it. Had they not drawn Miami, I think they would have had an easier time with Washington. Having said that, as a player, you just try to say, hey, itís over with, there is nothing we can do about it, but in the back of your mind you knew you blew a golden opportunity. Once you get out on the court, though, it all goes away. I think this is going to be a heck of a series, with Miami taking it in seven.
-- Paul Silas appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association