Mar 14, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard John Lucas (15) and Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole (30) battle for the ball in the second half at the United Center. The Bulls won 106-102. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

Bulls Look to Close Out Heat, Eastern Conference

Bulls at Heat — 7pm on TNT

When the Bulls and Heat meet, the world stops to watch in awe. Tonight, arguably the two best teams in the NBA talent-wise are doing battle for the last time in the regular season and everything is still on the line.

Thanks to a horrible loss to the Wizards on Monday, the Bulls have left things unfinished with the Heat, who sit just 2.5 games behind them in the Eastern Conference. But that can all change — either for the better or the worse– tonight. After losing their first matchup of the season against Miami, the Bulls have won two straight against them, both notably without the help of Derrick Rose.

Due to Rose’s continued struggles with injuries, he missed the second meeting this year and although he played last Thursday in the third installment of the season series, he scored a career low 2 points in the process.

But more so than last Thursday, the Heat have their back up against a wall. If they lose tonight, they will forfeit the all important tie-breaker to the Bulls meaning they would have 5 games to make up ground and finish better then the Bulls or they’ll be looking at the second seed in the East for a second straight year.

A win for the Bulls tonight means they will drop their magic number from 3 to 1 meaning they have all but won the Eastern Conference’s top seed. The Heat will be 3.5 games back with 4 games remaining so the chances they pass the Bulls would be nothing short of a basketball and a mathematical miracle.

That’s why tonight we may see a Heat team play unlike it has all season. For a team that was twice already crowned before the season started, they find themselves behind the scrappy Bulls in the East. The egos abound in Miami can not be tickled by this and you’ve got to believe they want to put this to bed.

If Miami wins tonight, they move within 1.5 games of the Bulls meaning they’ll have 4 more games to make up, at the most, 2 games on the Bulls.

Can you imagine the momentum swing the Heat would experience after trailing the Bulls all season long but finally catching them at the end when Chicago can only helplessly watch as Miami leap frogs them for the Eastern Conference crown?

It wouldn’t set a good tone for the playoffs in Chicago, that much is certain. On top of that, Miami would own home court and they seem to be an entirely different team when playing in South Beach compared to the road.

Bulls fans were hoping tonight’s game would be meaningless, and had they beat the Wizards on Monday it would have been. But this game is instead the most meaningful game of the regular season to date. Everything is on the line tonight in Miami, they’re playing for all the marbles and the fancy leather bag the marbles came in.

This game isn’t about Derrick Rose and his injuries, or LeBron James in the clutch. It’s about two teams playing a playoff game; because tonight is nothing short of that. With what’s on the line tonight, home court, the No. 1 seed, momentum, bragging rights, the swagger, this is a playoff game. Neither team can afford to lose this game.

Especially not Chicago.

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