Analysis: The Bulls have again ridden their defense to regular season success. After finishing the 2011 season with a league-best 62-20 record, the team's encore performance has netted a league-best 50-16 mark in 2012. The Bulls held opponents to the lowest scoring output in the NBA, limiting their adversaries to just 88.4 points per game. They also topped the league in total and offensive rebounds. Last year's MVP, Derrick Rose, was limited to 39 games, but appears to be healthy for the playoffs. Fifth-year player C.J. Watson has been a capable substitute in his absence, averaging 11.3 points and 4.6 assists in 25 starts. Newly acquired Richard Hamilton also suffered the injury bug, appearing in only 28 games, but the 34-year-old proved an effective option at shooting guard and is healthy heading into the postseason. All signs point to a playoff run for the Bulls. If the seeds hold true, they will meet the Heat in the Eastern Conference championship for the second year in a row. The two teams split four meetings during the season.
Analysis: After playing second-fiddle to the Mavericks in last year's championship series, Miami is prepared for another run. The cast of characters remains mostly intact, with new additions Shane Battier and Norris Cole joining the rotation. LeBron James appears likely to earn his third MVP trophy when the awards are handed out. Credit his overwhelming efficiency in submitting a stellar season that even the most jaded voters won't be able to ignore. James attempted the fewest three-pointers of his career (2.4 per game), making 36.2 percent, a career-high. As a result, his field goal percentage also climbed to a career-best 53.1 percent. James leads the Heat in points, rebounds, assists and steals. His running mate, Dwyane Wade, has been limited to the fewest minutes of his career (33.2 per game), but has still chipped in 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.7 steals per game. If Miami again meets Chicago in the conference finals, they'll concede home court advantage. However, that didn't prove to be a detriment last year when the Heat ousted the Bulls in five games.
Chances of Winning Conference Finals: Bulls 20.2% - Heat 43.2%