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Miami Heat Vs. Chicago Bulls

ROUND ONE - Eastern Conference
Miami Heat (4th seed) Vs. Chicago Bulls (5th seed)

Miami (44- 38), the defending NBA champs, is back in the playoffs after struggling through an injury-plagued season. They will take on the Chicago Bulls, who were eliminated in the first-round in 2006 and won their last NBA championship in 1998. Chicago took the regular season series three games to one. Statistically, these teams are fairly evenly matched with Chicago holding a bit of an edge in most categories.

Miami won its first championship in 2006, defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the finals. Upfront, center Shaquille O’Neal (17.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG) is still a formidable force, but he’s had injury problems, missing 42 games this season. He’s played minimally the final week of the season, sitting out three of the final six games. Power forward Udonis Haslem (10.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG. 0.3 BPG) has been a solid performer.

Dwayne Wade (27.4 PPG, 7.5 APG, 4.7 RPG) is a massive force in the Miami backcourt. A playmaker and go-to guy, he can be virtually unstoppable. Wade was out from February 22 to April 6 with a shoulder injury. He played five games at the end of the season, sitting out the final one. His health is a real question mark and will be a major factor in deciding Miami’s post-season fate.

The Bulls have been helped upfront by former Piston Ben Wallace (6.4 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2 BPG). Wallace is a major defensive force and one of the best bangers in the league. Swingman Luoi Deng (18.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.5 BPG), now in his third NBA season, has improved his stamina and production this year. A good inside shooter and tough rebounder, he’s a fine compliment to Wallace.

From the outside, guard Ben Gordon (21.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG), also a third-year player, has a solid 3-pointer (41%). Guard Kirk Hinrich (16.6 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.4 RPG) is also an efficient three-point shooter (42%). Although neither is as dynamic as the Heat’s Wade, both are healthy and able to score in bunches.

Miami has been there before but the age and health of O’Neal and the health of Wade are big concerns. The Heat has vets Alonzo Mourning (8.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.3 BPG) and Eddie Jones (7.7 PPG, 3 RPG, 1.7 APG) as subs, but they are 37 and 35 years old respectively. Look for the young Bulls to give the old Heat some hot competition.

Maddux Sports Series Prediction:

Chicago Bulls in 5 Games

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