Insider offers a breakdown of every playoff series using an expert combination of scouting from Amin Elhassan and advanced metrics from Bradford Doolittle to answer three crucial questions. Also included are predictions from the writers and the classic Log5 formula for determining matchup probabilities.
The math is daunting. Yes, the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat twice during the regular season, one of just three teams to do so. And one of those wins snapped Miami's historic 27-game win near the end of March. Still, with a roster beset with injuries, illness and off-court melodrama, Chicago is tasked with providing four victories against a team that has gone 41-2 since Feb. 3.
In surviving a grueling, seven-game first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bulls earned the respect and admiration of nearly everyone with an interest in professional basketball. Meanwhile, the defending champs were sitting back and enjoying a seven-day respite after throttling the Milwaukee Bucks in four straight. They'll begin the second round with the ceremony in which LeBron James will be presented with his fourth MVP award.
As for the rust factor, don't count on that seven-day layoff working against Miami. The 7-7-7-7 format has been in place since 2003. There have been 15 first-round sweeps since then, not including this season. The rested teams have gone 11-4 in the first game of their second-round series. However, in the games in which the rested team was going against an opponent coming off just one day's rest –- like Chicago -- the sweepers went 9-1 with an average margin of victory of 20.8 points. The only exception was the 2006 Dallas Mavericks, who swept in the opening round then after a five-day layoff lost by two points in their second-round opener at San Antonio.
The Bulls do have a couple of matchup advantages against Miami, but they are still going to need all hands on deck to challenge the Heat.
Chicago Bulls (5) at Miami Heat (1)
Eastern Conference playoffs