The Chicago Bulls overcame injuries, illness and the Brooklyn Nets to earn another chance at the Miami Heat in the playoffs beginning Monday night. They face a well-rest Heat team led by LeBron James, who picked up his fourth NBA MVP award in the past five seasons on Sunday, and Dwyane Wade, who is expected to play after sitting out their first-round sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks because of soreness in his right knee.
The banged-up and Derrick Rose-less Bulls are big underdogs, but they have shown they can beat the Heat even without their star after splitting their season series.
So how do they go about pulling off an upset? Our friends at ESPN Stats & Info put together some interesting numbers that, if they go the Bulls' way, could factor into success for Chicago.
Bulls have to defend corner 3: The Heat scored 927 points off corner 3-point attempts, the most of any team since the start of 1996-97. The Bulls limited the Heat's success on those shots this season, holding Miami to 36 percent, the third-lowest percentage against an opponent this season (with a minimum of 20 attempts).
During the two Heat wins over the Bulls, 8-of-11 corner 3-pointers attempted were uncontested (no defender within 4 feet). The Heat went 5-of-8 on such shots.
During the two Heat losses, 8-of-14 corner three-pointers attempted were contested (defender within 4 feet). The Heat went 1-of-8 on such shots.
Limit LeBron the passer in isolation: James assisted on 23 percent of Heat baskets against the Bulls this season, his third-lowest percentage against any opponent. The Bulls limited James' opportunities to pass by not double-teaming in isolation situations and forcing James to shoot. James was 6-of-13 with four turnovers on isolation plays against the Bulls, posting a 0.78 points per play average, which was his fourth-worst against any opponent. James averaged 1.03 PPP in isolation situations during the regular season, best among 44 players with at least 150 plays.
Slow Heat's transition game: The Bulls allowed 90.3 points per 100 possessions in half-court sets, the fourth-best defensive efficiency in the NBA. Chicago struggled to limit transition offense, allowing 1.21 points per play, third-worst in the league. The Heat were the second-best team in transition offense, averaging 1.21 points per play (NBA average: 1.13).
Limit Big 3's supporting cast: Don't blame the losses on the Heat's Big 3. James, Wade and Chris Bosh averaged 68.5 points per game and 18 assists in the two losses to the Bulls. The trio averaged 56.5 points per game in wins, down from their 64.5 average, but added 24 assists. Miami's supporting cast has performed well in Heat wins against the Bulls, averaging 39 points on 52 percent shooting. But in the two losses, they averaged 24.5 points and 35 percent shooting.