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Is It Just Miami and New York in the East?

Joakim Noah

Noah and the Bulls will be a tough out once Derrick Rose returns.

The major sentiment around the National Basketball Association when it comes to the Eastern Conference is that New York and Miami are the top two teams. Right now, that’s like saying the Celtics and Lakers have the most NBA Titles. Duh….

What can’t be overlooked is the fact that the Chicago Bulls are hanging in there. They currently lead the Central Division and are coming off a ten-game stretch where they went 7-3. A lot of people are waiting for the return of Derrick Rose sometime near or after the All-Star break and while that’s going to help, no one can say how much.

To me, the overwhelming difference between the three teams is defensively. The Heat can be extremely good defensively when they collectively want to but they’ve already seen some spurts in 2012 where the D hasn’t been so stellar. Winning championships can do that to you. It can take a little bit of that desire away and it can create some lazy feet if you catch my drift.

The Knicks, especially under Mike D’Antoni, were not exactly thought of as a defensive team and in some ways they still aren’t, but they are better on the defensive end than anyone may have imagined. They’re 11th in the league in total points per game allowed which isn’t too bad and some of that is simply due to their length. Where the Knicks need to be careful, is rebounding the ball. They are near the bottom of the league in that category and if you don’t do a decent job on the glass it can cost you especially if you are giving average teams second chance opportunities.

The Chicago Bulls are a different story however. This is a team that has won before with defense and is winning now that same way. What Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has done has made sure this team stays more than just afloat in the absence of Rose. This team was defensive in nature before his injury and has continued that same approach. Loul Deng averages about 17 a game while Joakim Noah leads the team in rebounding, steals and blocks.

Are the Bulls going to ‘wow you’ on a nightly basis? No, they sure as heck are not, but they are going to keep themselves in games and they will also benefit from a division that’s as weak as day-old dishwater. They currently rank second in the league in points allowed per game at 90.3 and they’re seventh in rebounding.

As always in the NBA, star-power can ultimately trump even the best of team play, but if Derrick Rose can come back and contribute the way he feels he can then I can’t see ruling the Bulls out in the Eastern Conference.

Games in the East Tonight

Dwyane Wade

Wade and the Heat are just 4-4 on the road this season.

Miami at Dallas – The only team from the NBA’s Eastern Conference in action tonight is the Miami Heat and they travel westward to play the Mavericks. Dallas is currently 12-13 on the year but is 8-3 at home in Big D. Perhaps the best news for Dallas is that Dirk Nowitzki practiced yesterday for the first time since off-season knee surgery. He will instantly make the team more competitive but I don’t see them doing much damage in the playoffs if they get there.

The Heat are the Heat, plain and simple, but they have actually struggled on the road this season at just 4-4. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James both had big nights in beating Minnesota Tuesday night as they combined for 46 points. The Achilles’ heel for this Dallas team is exactly what the Heat will take advantage of and that’s poor defense. The Mavs give up over 101 points per game and the Heat do nothing better than score. Take the Heat to pull away late.


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