DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP)—Luol Deng expects the adjustments to be as subtle as some of the hard fouls the teams have exchanged in recent seasons.
He knows the Miami Heat have to do something.
The defending champions had two days to digest what happened in Game 1 Saturday, when Deng scored 33 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 96-91 victory. Two days to figure out how someone who struggled against them in the regular season went off like that. And two days to correct it before the series resumes Tuesday in Chicago.
“I know they’re going to come with a different look,” Deng said.
He knows the Heat are physical, will try to wear down the Bulls, but it’s tough to do when a team can’t catch its opponent. And the Heat couldn’t stop Chicago in the opener.
“Everybody could have done a better job,” coach Pat Riley said. “All of us.”
The Bulls took three of four in the regular season and the loss came when Miami dictated the tempo, so it was no secret they wanted to pick up the pace. And Chicago did just that.
The Bulls outscored the Heat 25-4 on the break, but what they did in the halfcourt was just as important.
They penetrated. They moved the ball. Deng got open shots, and that’s why the Bulls were quick to downplay his five-inch size advantage over Dwyane Wade, the man guarding him.
“Having a small guy on me, it’s not as if I kept posting up,” Deng said.
That’s why he thinks it won’t matter if the Heat put the bigger Eddie Jones or James Posey on him. Deng’s points come from his ability to move without the ball, to break away from his defender and cut to the rim or pull up for a mid-range jumper.
Still, Posey indicated he wants a chance, and the two have a history.
Posey got ejected for a hard foul on Deng when Miami lost by six at Chicago on Dec. 27. Deng was 2-for-10 with eight points in that game, and he didn’t fare much better in the other three. A guy who scored in double digits 78 times during a breakout season had another eight-point effort against the Heat and scored 12 against them twice.
Deng looked like a different player Saturday.
He made a total of 12 and never attempted more than 14 in a game against the Heat during the regular season, yet he hit a layup in the opening seconds and finished 14-for-22.
“I didn’t play well against them in the regular season, and my thoughts were I just have to be aggressive at the start of the game,” Deng said.
The Heat had no counter.
Shaquille O’Neal dominated early before fouling out, and Wade delivered late. Otherwise, it was a rough afternoon for both superstars.
Knee and shoulder problems limited Wade on both ends of the court. Although he carried the Heat late in the game, scoring nine of his 21 points in the fourth, Wade was 3-for-10 through three quarters and could not shake Chicago’s Thabo Sefolosha.
“I’m not the D-Wade I used to be right now,” Wade said. “My quickness is not there. So I’m trying to be smarter and use my mind more than my body.”
Things went awry for O’Neal after scoring 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter. The fouls started to mount, he accused the Bulls of flopping and said referee Eddie F. Rush “derailed” him.
The odds Wade and O’Neal get into foul trouble again are slim, and coach Scott Skiles realizes the Bulls have to do a better job against the big man early. Ben Wallace did his best to contain O’Neal, but others were slow to rotate.
“Any great player, you never want them feeling good about themselves early in a game,” Skiles said. “A guy settles into a rhythm and then you have your hands full.”
On the other end, Deng quickly settled into one.
After averaging 18.8 points and shooting 51.7 percent during the regular season, he finally broke through against the Heat.
To Riley, it was no surprise. He thought Deng should’ve been an All-Star.
“I thought he was almost head and shoulders above a lot of the threes in our conference as an All-Star, save for maybe Caron Butler and somebody else like that,” Riley said. “He had a great year. He plays like that every single night.”