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NBA Playoffs Heat at Bulls

April 24, 2007

NBA Playoffs (Game 2) Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls (-3½, 183½) 8:00 PM EST

Each team was able to come away from Game 1 with positives and negatives to build on.

Scott Skiles saw his squad’s play carry a pugnacious approach, cleaning up the glass with a +13 edge in rebounding, including the all important offensive rebounds, where they destroyed Miami 13-4.

The Bulls had a 25-4 edge in fast-break points, continually beating the older and slower Heat down the floor.

Luol Deng of the BullsThe catalyst was forward Luol Deng, who struggled in last season’s match-up and had scored just 10 points a game vs. the Heat in four regular season match-ups this season.

Depending on when one wagered on Chicago, the Bulls are now 7-2, 6-2-1 or 6-3 against the spread with Deng’s heroics in last nine contests. The other good news is it seems a virtual certainty Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich will not go a combined 0-9 from beyond the arc two straight games, thus adding more to the Bulls point total.

What Skiles needs to emphasize is closing out Pat Riley’s team, as his club was outscored 29-24 in the final stanza. They will need this if they hope to build on 17-5 ATS record in April games over the last two seasons.

The Heat locker room was like a Miami nightclub at 3 A.M., sweltering and frustrated. Shaquille O’Neal started with “My intention was to come out and be myself, until Eddie Rush (official) derailed me,” O’Neal said after fouling out in just 27 minutes of action.

Dwayne Wade said this of himself “I'm not the D-Wade I'm used to being right now,” he said. “My quickness is not there. I'm trying to be smarter. I'm trying to use my mind more than my athleticism. I don't think (coaches and teammates) really know that as much as I do. It's frustrating. But I'm here to play.”

Pat Riley was more interested in results then words being spoken. Riley for all intents called his star player out and said “Regardless of the condition you're in, you're going to have to guard somebody,” Riley said of Wade. “Now, it's all about stepping up and taking pride at both ends of the court. Hinrich, Deng and Gordon, they have to be shut down. They've got to be contained, and (Wade) is one of the guys who has to do that.”

Mighty strong words that only a coach of Riley’s stature could use. Miami undoubtedly will bring a different attitude to the United Center and will not only want to improve upon 28-15 ATS record as an underdog this season, but earn a series split.

Chicago is a 3.5-point home favorite at and is 6-3 ATS in Miami’s last nine visits to the Windy City.

Master motivator Riley will sell his club on the fact of despite a mediocre effort; they still had opportunities to win. With greater intensity from the opening tip they will have an excellent chance to come away with a victory and improve upon the underdog being 10-3-1 against the spread in this series.

Early bettors did not take the bait on the Total being higher then Game One and have dropped it three points to present 181.5. With the number this low, potential value is at hand with Chicago 17-7 OVER as a home favorite of 3.5 to 6 points and Miami 14-6 OVER as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points this season.

All the Heat players are downplaying this as rivalry including Shaq, “They want to make it a rivalry,” he said. “Like if I'm walking down the street and you say to me, 'This is a rivalry,' we're not rivals. You have to do something; they have to do something, for us to become rivals.” Tonight the basketball world finds out if this is true.

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