CHICAGO IL - FEBRUARY 24: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls looks at a referee after being called for a foul against the Miami Heat at the United Center on February 24 2011 in Chicago Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Heat Vs. Bulls, NBA Playoff Predictions: Will Chicago Move On, Or Can Miami Triumph?

In the lead-up to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, SBNation.com's NBA editors predict the outcome of the series.

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Derrick Rose, Homecourt Advantage Will Carry Bulls Past Heat

The NBA Eastern Conference Finals series between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat is almost impossible to predict. Nothing we witnessed between these two teams in the regular season is instructive. The only game in which all the key players were healthy was decided by a rebound on a missed free throw. We have no choice but to throw the regular season out the window.

In theory, Chicago has all the ingredients to stop a team like Miami. Derrick Rose will have a tremendous advantage against all the primary defenders Miami can throw at him, and is a much more difficult puzzle for Miami to solve than Rajon Rondo. Chicago also has the elite pick and roll defense necessary to prevent LeBron James and Dwyane Wade from living at the free-throw line. The Bulls' depth, while not as big an advantage as in the regular season, is still enough of an advantage to dominate the second quarter and prevent Miami from keying in on a particular lineup or tendency. 

The question, though, is whether Wade and James are good enough to make all of that not matter. They're certainly capable of winning this series by themselves, just like they did against Boston. They also seemed to have solved their crunch-time issue and have been able to split the load perfectly well. It's fully possible that the Bulls' strategy of using their defense to keep it close and winning it at the end won't work because Wade and James are too good.

But this is a much taller order for those two than Boston. The Heat don't have home-court advantage, and they've never had to face real adversity in a seven-game series. How will they respond to the madhouse that will result when they play in Chicago? Beating Boston may have been a major turning point in Miami's mental toughness, but Boston wasn't the same Boston team that beat the Heat up in November. Chicago is much closer to that team, and they have home-court advantage.

Ultimately, I think home court will win out. So, reluctantly, I'm going to pick Chicago to win in 7. 

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Derrick Rose Leads Chicago Bulls Into Battle, Which Is All He Knows

Many have tried to attach values to Derrick Rose this season, but the truth is that what makes Rose special is being so wrapped up in basketball that he's suspended from our reality.

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LeBron James, Miami Heat Clicking, Should Get By Chicago Bulls (If Barely)

The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are as close a matchup as we can imagine; yes, the same was said of the Heat’s series against the Boston Celtics. No one counted on Jermaine O’Neal’s wrist being broken and Rajon Rondo dislocating his elbow in Game 3. Miami romped in the series sense (though most of the games were close), while the Bulls took their time and some great haymakers from the Atlanta Hawks to move on.

It’s Miami’s poise and offensive execution against Boston that has me picking the Heat in seven over the Bulls. After a season’s worth of late-game failures due to out-of-rhythm, isolation-created jumpers, Miami committed itself to penetration and resulting drive-and-kick opportunities against the Celtics.

To have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade buy into that? It’s huge! Chicago is built (like Boston) to force difficult shots at the rim and beyond the arc. They want LeBron and Wade to create jumpers off the bounce … for themselves. But the Heat’s duo largely avoided that in the Boston series, making the painted area home.

Chicago has a tremendous advantage on the bench — no lie, the Bulls have four bench players better than any Heat players beyond James, Wade and Chris Bosh, and four of CHI’s starters (excepting Keith Bogans) are ahead on that list, too. Yes, that means Chicago has eight of the top 11 players in this series.

Uh, can I change my pick?

No, because LeBron and Wade are that good, and while Rose is spectacular, a focused, committed and tactically smart Miami team isn’t getting beat by anyone. Miami in 7.

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Heat Vs. Bulls: Going With Derrick Rose And A Gut Feeling

The Chicago Bulls square off against the Miami Heat on Sunday, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris will try to take the next to step on the way to an NBA Title, and Derrick Rose will try to stop them all by himself. And really, if the past few weeks have proven anything, it's that nobody knows what's going to happen here. That's why the NBA Playoffs are awesome.

Also, I'm currently braindead from cumulative lack of sleep, and there are two episodes of Parks and Recreation waiting for on DVR, so we're going to explain this with excerpts from past, more coherent work. First, let's go back to the Heat-Celtics preview:

...don't let the past year of LeBron James' career distract you from who, exactly, we're dealing with. He's every bit as dominant as he's ever been, and something tells me the league's about to get a reminder. The Heat have no home court, no answer for Rajon Rondo, no bench, an overmatched power forward, and questionable chemistry in crunch time, so by all means, Boston could kill 'em. But LeBron is still LeBron, and we're overdue for a reminder. The Pick: Heat in 6.

Two weeks ago, LeBron was more dominant than anyone was giving him credit for. Then he beat Boston and gradually fixed that himself. After Game 5, though, things got out of hand:

Maybe beating Boston was enough to convince LeBron he made the right choice and convince the rest of us he's as good as he's ever been, but if 'Bron really wants the throne, there's a whole lot left to prove. And for all the relief we saw from the Heat on Wednesday, on the climb to the top, something tells me there will be tougher tests than three proud veterans and an injured point guard.

In a nutshell: We weren't giving LeBron and the Heat nearly enough credit, and then we probably gave them a little too much credit. And guess who's not getting enough credit now? That's right! Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. It's a gut feeling, but... The Pick: Bulls In 7.

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Heat Vs. Bulls, NBA Playoff Predictions: Will Chicago Move On, Or Can Miami Triumph?

In the lead-up to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, SBNation.com's NBA editors and our team bloggers will predict the outcome of the series. Check back in on Sunday for our projections.

Be sure to check out our full Heat vs. Bulls hub for full series coverage. For more on the Bulls, visit Blog a Bull and SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier.

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