Scouting The Opponents: Heat And Hawks

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Cooling Down the Heat

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The signature moment from Chicago’s 101-97 win to end the Heat’s winning streak came in the first quarter when Kirk Hinrich tackled LeBron James to prevent him from getting to the basket. The tackle set the mood for the entire game and as the game went on, Bulls players stayed with the script. Hard fouls from Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson frustrated James and Dwyane Wade.

When LeBron picked up a flagrant foul for crashing into a Carlos Boozer screen elbow-first, we saw a rare moment of the league's M.V.P. losing focus during a crucial part of the game.

The Knicks can use the Bulls' blueprint to slow down Miami. Like Chicago's Jimmy Butler, Iman Shumpert possesses the length and defensive tenacity to frustrate the Heat's stars, and Kenyon Martin certainly is no stranger to giving a hard foul now and then.

The keys to Chicago’s win were their ability to get in the paint and score, hit the glass on the offensive end. And of course, use their fouls deliberately.

Of Chicago’s 85 field goal attempts, 38 came within five feet of the basket. They relentlessly attacked the soft middle of the Heat defense and got to the free throw line. While the Knicks thrive from downtown, it will be important for them to repeatedly attack the paint, as we’ve seen J.R. Smith do during his recent phenomenal play. The Bulls attempted the same number of three-pointers as free throws - 18 – against Miami, and the Knicks should strive for a similar ratio.

Another key to Chicago’s win was their offensive rebounding. The Bulls are currently top five in the league, pulling down over 30% of their own misses. The Bulls pulled down 12 offensive rebounds Wednesday night, which helped them outscore Miami, 22-8, in second chance points. The Knicks will have to crash the boards hard, while still limiting the Heat’s transition game.

New York is in the bottom third of offensive rebound rate, but in their two wins over Miami, they pulled down 24 offensive rebounds, good for a 25.5% rate. In the Knicks one loss to the Heat, they only managed nine offensive rebounds.

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images