The Chicago Bulls won Game 1 of their highly uneven matchup against the Heat and after that it was all she wrote. While I’m known to have dissed the Bulls’ post-season chances, I have to say I’m quite proud of these Bulls. After all, they crossed the line into the playoffs, which was hardly a gimme. They then cleared the Nets to establish their post-season cred. They then shocked the Heat in Miami to shake the NBA awake and give Stern the willies. The Bulls did all this without their franchise superstar and for that they should be rewarded down the road when their difference-maker returns to active form. The Bulls played with ferocity, with determination, and with defiance. These Bulls stepped up big time. Nate Robinson forces a revaluation. Noah’s emergence as a supreme defensive superstar has been in the making ever since coming out of Florida, but man-oh-man was his post-season completely eye opening – injury and all.
The Heat are just too good, but now they might have a counterpart in the Eastern Conference that can match them defensively. The Indiana Pacers hold a commanding 3-1 lead on the Knicks and may be able to get some rest of their own if they can again win at MSG tomorrow. The Heat are on a mission and while Chicago inflicted a Game 1 speed bump on the road to their destiny, I don’t think anybody in America thinks that Miami’s destiny was in any way challenged by the loss.
The real problem for the Bulls was that they weren’t only outgunned on both sides of the court but they were also outmanned. The Bulls were without three key players in the series. Most notably Luol Deng and Derrick Rose. Under the circumstances, Thibodeau’s coaching performance is well beyond reproach; he kept his team focused on the task at hand and they consistently overachieved their limited resources and overcame the myriad of media distractions.
Lebron’s team is a 15 point favorite heading into tonight. Nate Robinson went 0-12 in the last game and the Bulls seems to be just out of gas at this point. Don’t expect any miracles to come out of this one, but that shouldn’t detract from the big picture that is what the Bulls accomplished this year in the face of extraordinary adversity.
I’m already excisted for the Bulls’ prospects next year. I’m particularly fascinated by a potential backcourt rotation that might include Rose, Robinson, Teague, Deng and Hinrich. A steady rotation of those all-around good guards would certainly give the always-moody Erik Spoelstra something interesting to sweat over other than Miami’s Heat and humidity.