Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) looks to pass as Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng (9) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Updated: May 5, 2013 9:45PM
Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng vs. LeBron James
Butler (8.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and Deng (16.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
vs. James (26.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 7.3 apg)
If Deng can answer the bell after spending three nights in the hospital since Wednesday, he will be given the first opportunity to guard ‘‘The King.’’ If not, Butler will face the biggest test of his young career. Either way, the Bulls want to play James physically and force him to be a scorer rather than a scorer and playmaker. In the two games in which the Bulls beat the Heat this season, James averaged 31 points but had only 13 rebounds and five assists. In the two games in which the Heat beat the Bulls, James averaged 25 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. In other words, the Bulls know there is no way to stop James; they just don’t want to allow him to lift his teammates to a higher level.
Carlos Boozer vs. Heat’s big men
Boozer (16.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg)
The Heat was unable to slow down Boozer this season, guarding him with Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen during the regular season. Considering Boozer averaged 19 points and 15 rebounds against the Heat during the regular season, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will need to figure out a better plan. It isn’t like the Heat simply can go with a smaller lineup against the Bulls, either. Joakim Noah is quick enough and athletic enough to play against smaller lineups while still dominating the boards.
Joakim Noah vs. Chris Bosh
Noah (11.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg)
Bosh (16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Bosh is a difficult matchup because he’s not a true center and can stretch teams out with his ability to knock down his mid-range jumper consistently. Then again, he can’t bang and play physically to the degree Noah can. It’s two completely different styles going at each other, and both coaches will try to expose the weaknesses of the opposing player.