Bulls vs. Heat — 8:30pm on ESPN
Last time these two teams met it was the Heat that got the better of the Bulls. It marked the fifth win in a row for the Heat against the Bulls adding back to the fateful Eastern Conference Finals showdown form last season.
But this year the tides have calmed and the match ups aren’t as intense and meaningful in the regular season. That’s because the Bulls owned the Heat in the regular season last year but got owned when it mattered.
That was a sobering thing for Bulls fans, all the hype and excitement of having won a championship was had after the four game season series sweep of Miami but when it counted in May, the air and gravity was sucked out of Chicago and Bulls fans found themselves left gasping for air.
This year has been marked with injuries for the Bulls. The high hopes set by last year have been beaten to a pulp with various injuries to Luol Deng, C.J. Watson, Rip Hamilton and most importantly Derrick Rose. The first go-around with the Heat saw the Bulls without Luol Deng, which turned out to be key. This time around they may be without Derrick Rose or Luol Deng.
Derrick Rose will miss tonight’s game against the Heat with what head coach Tom Thibodeau is calling a “complication of things”.
That’s maybe why the game has a numb feel to it already. Last year there was almost a championship game build up to the game. This year it feels little more then just another game.
But even if the vigor form last year’s regular season meetings isn’t there, the meaning is. The Bulls currently sit 2 1/2 games ahead of the Heat for the top seed in the East. They have a commanding 6 1/2 game lead on the Magic and the Sixers and Pacers at this point are not a threat at nine games back.
But it would be nice if the Bulls could get some separation from the Heat, as the games down the stretch of the season won’t be any easier and all the breathing room you can get is never a bad thing.
However, if the Bulls manage to lose tonight, all is not lost. The Heat would still sit a game and a half back from the Bulls and would need to win twice and have the Bulls lose twice to pass them by a half game, given there isn’t a day of rest.
It will also be interesting to see how this squad matches up against a Heat team without Derrick Rose helping them. The talk all along by some is that the Bulls can’t compete without Rose, and aren’t even a playoff team if he doesn’t play.
For that reason alone, Rose should sit. He needs the rest to get healthy and the debate can be settled tonight as to how competitive this team is without Rose. The truth of what is discovered may hurt, but it’s always better to know then to be left in the dark. That way if Rose does go down at some point and misses significant time, the Bulls will have assessed what they look like without their MVP and can plan accordingly via free agency or a trade.
But it would be a pleasant surprise if the Bulls win against the Heat tonight, the Miami Monkey is on their backs and they’d like nothing more then to figure out how to get it off so they can spear it through the heart in May.