Even without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls are sitting pretty favorably to grabbing a top four spot in the East and home court advantage for the first round. On Sunday afternoon, the Heat and Bulls will face off in Miami.
The Heat are returning from a six game road trip that saw them grab 5 wins against West playoff teams and the only loss in Utah. The Heat had impressive wins over the Thunder, Suns and Mavericks, and closer wins against the Clippers and the buzzer beater in Golden State. Miami has no more extensive West trips remaining on the schedule.
Thursday's win in Oklahoma City gave promise to the health of Dwyane Wade who had 24 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds. Wade's shot was on, and he was driving to the basket. Even more than that, LeBron James was impressive enough to draw him closer to a tight MVP race with Kevin Durant. James left the game against the Thunder after being hit in the nose and bleeding. LeBron is a game time decision to play against the Bulls.
The Bulls are living life without Derrick Rose, and more recently without Luol Deng who was traded last month for Andrew Bynum which Chicago immediately waived. The Bulls are one of four teams in the East above .500. Carlos Boozer is their leading scorer at 14.9 PPG, and Joakim Noah represented them at the All-Star game.
Chicago has always given the Heat a battle because of their defensive tenacity. Coach Thibedou gets the most out of his players against Miami. This won't be any easy game for the Heat for a few reasons. The first has to do with it being the Bulls, and secondly, it's become evident that the first game back from a long road trip is difficult. The Heat haven't played at home since February 3, nearly three weeks.
I'd suspect a mmoderate start for the Heat, but if LeBron and Wade play close to their intensity they've had recently, it will be too much for the Bulls. Kirk Hinrich, Noah, Boozer, Taj Gibson and company are all familiar foes as the Heat and Bulls met in the playoffs last year and it should make for a good game.
Something to keep an eye on will be Spoelstra's rotation. He has been using a tighter rotation, only using 8 players in OKC. Now that he is back at home, will he open it back up and allow Michael Beasley and/or Greg Oden to play some?
You can see it on ABC at 3:30 EST.
Sunday, Feb 23, 2014, 3:30 PM EST