The Chicago Bulls outlasted the Brooklyn Nets 99-93 in Game 7 of their first round series on Saturday night and will have one full day of rest and preperation before facing the Miami Heat on the road Monday night.
Meanwhile, the defending champions will have had a full week of rest and practice after sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks in quick fashion. What remains to be seen is just how rusty the #1 seed is but in reality will that translate into much besides a predictably slow first half in Game 1? We've seen the majority of the Heat's wins as of late arriving in that manner anyway, with the second half marking a turning point where at some point the team turns it on, usually sparked by LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade, and they never look back.
This will be the seventh postseason matchup between the Heat and Bulls, with Miami starting 1-4 (0-3 in the 1990's) all-time against their East rivals but beating them in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals series 4-1 with the Big 3.
The Bulls arrive to the second round not only weary from a 7-game series but banged up. Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised calf) were the latest key players to miss a game. The 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose has not ruled out a return to the court a full year since he tore his left ACL in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Playoffs first round series against the Philadelphia Sixers but his return would appear to be unlikely at this point in the season.
The Bulls were able to eliminate the Nets on the strength of their depth despite their depleted roster. With the added rest beneficial for players like Dwyane Wade while others simply did their best to stay sharp over the past week, the newly crowned MVP LeBron James will be positively giddy for a return to action on the main court of the AmericanAirlines Arena, where he will officially be announced the NBA's Most Valuable Player on Sunday afternoon.
The Heat also have plenty of depth, but they also have the Big 3 including an MVP eager to display his talents once again.