Chicago Bulls Beat Miami Heat Behind Unsustainable Defense
It's easy to wax poetic about Chicago's Game 1 win in Miami; it's even easier because I'm sitting in a Chicago apartment a 15 minute bus ride away from the United Center as I type this. For a city that didn't expect much from the red jerseys this season, their enthusiasm for the team is positively infectious. And that enthusiasm may just come about because the Bulls are winning the same way as the Bears of old: defense, defense, and more defense.
Even without Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich for Games 1 and 2 (and D-Rose, but we've been over this), the Bulls were still able to absolutely stifle the Heat's offensive prowess. My ranting and raving about the Heat offense yesterday seems to have done no good; Miami shot just a .442 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) while averaging just 0.987 points per possession.
I'm a journalistic firefighter, though, because the analytics behind Game 1 only serve to temper Chicago fans' enthusiasm. I know cold reality isn't exactly what Bulls fans want to hear, but there is no other way to tell the stats when looking forward to Game 2.
The Unlikely Heat Off Night
It's not too often you get the Miami Heat off their game. In fact, they only shot as poorly as they did in Game 1 twice in 82 regular season games.
Their worst contest of the year, a November loss to the Grizzlies in which they shot .440 eFG% as a team, saw Dwyane Wade go only 3 for 15 from the field. The other game, the Boston post-Rondo double-OT upset, saw LeBron go 14 for 31 and Wade for 6 for 20.
But those types of shooting performances won't happen too often - LeBron finished the regular season with a second-in-the-NBA .603 eFG%, while Wade's .528 eFG% wasn't half bad himself. Even against the Chicago Bulls, who held opponents to a fourth-best .477 eFG% this season, LeBron and Wade wouldn't be expected to shoot that poorly except in the most extreme outlier.
Let's call last night that type of outlier. Neither player managed to get above a .500 eFG%; the only Heat player to do so was Norris Cole who went 3 of 4 from the field. The Heat as a team only made 7 of 24 threes (.105 percentage points below their season average), and Chicago outshot them by .044 despite coming in with the next-to-last regular season offensive eFG% when fully healthy.
The analytics say last night's Heat output was an extreme outlier. Given a league-average opponent, the Heat should only shoot .442 eFG% or below 7.1 percent of the time. The Bulls' tough defense may bump that percentage up slightly, but not nearly enough to take last night's performance out of outlier status.
So What Does It Mean?
Well, to answer the bold lettering, it means very little. The Bulls may have bumped their series victory chances slightly, but even in a 1-0 hole, it's still the Heat who hold the major advantage.
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As it stands, the Heat still hold a roughly 47 percent chance (nearly half!) of winning this series in six games or less. The Bulls, meanwhile, barely hold over one-quarter odds of winning the series, even with the 1-0 lead. There is a greater percentage chance that Miami wins the next four games than there is of Chicago winning in six games or less.
Chicago's Game 1 win was nice and all, but from the number's vantage point, it looks a lot like an outlier. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bulls fans. A poor Miami shooting night like that one is unlikely to happen again, so sayeth the stats.