Five things to watch in Eastern Conference finals
Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade, both native Chicagoans, will test the allegiance of Windy City fans. Both guards have appreciation for the city, but the former stayed home and endured the chilly Midwest while the other left for the warmer pastures of South Beach. A tough Chicago crowd may turn against Wade, the same way it did to hometown hero turned Detroit bad boy Isiah Thomas.
While Miami has two to share the load in Wade and LeBron James, Chicago's Rose is forced to carry the team on his humble shoulders. He's averaging 28.8 points per game in the playoffs. If the Bulls want a shot at defeating the Heat, they will have to share the wealth. Chicago is 4-0 in the playoffs when five or more of its players score in double figures.
Power of the sixth man
The further into the postseason we go, the more the crowd and home court advantage become factors. From fans refusing to rescue their star player diving into the stands to being forced to cover empty seats, Miami has struggled in the fan department. It seems Heat fans haven't learned how to "Fan Up" like their marketing campaign suggested earlier this season. On the other hand, the United Center is bustling with the type of basketball tradition that makes it No. 1 in regular-season attendance. Bulls fans are salivating for another Larry O'Brien trophy and conjuring up memories of a weeping, champagne-soaked Michael Jordan after leading the Bulls to the first of six NBA championships.
With a combined four seasons of head coaching experience, Erik Spoelstra and Tom Thibodeau are demonstrating how a brief time at the helm doesn't necessarily mean novice coaching skills. Both coaches know what it takes to harness star power, but only one has the hardware to prove it. Look for Thibodeau to show why he is Coach of the Year.
Carlos Boozer inadvertently may have given Chris Bosh bulletin board material by telling reporters the Miami Heat have "two great players in D.Wade and LeBron," thereby attacking Bosh by omission. This could agitate Bosh, who has been fighting the soft label all season. Averaging 16.3 points per game in the postseason, Bosh seems to have the advantage in the battle of the big men when compared to Boozer's average of 11.8 points. Trash talking doesn't win games, but it does add another element of intrigue to a matchup that will be key in the series.