These two teams have had several battles since the emergence of the Miami Heat’s super-team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Miami Heat’s style of play is to spread the floor with shooters to allow LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to penetrate the defense and either take a high percentage shot or pass the ball to an open shooter. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are two of the most explosive players in NBA history from baseline-to-baseline. Their ability to get to the basket and shoot the mid-range jumper has solidified their places in sports history and when they joined forces it was thought that there would be no competition for them.
During the summer of 2010 while the Miami Heat constructed their super-team, Derrick Rose proclaimed that he wanted to be the MVP of the NBA and the Chicago Bulls hired a veteran defensive-minded assistant coach–Tom Thibodeau–as their head coach. The previous year the Bulls were 41-41 but now being led by their rising star and new head coach the Bulls ended the season with the best record in the NBA at 62-20 and they were ranked as the top defensive team in the NBA. The new defensive identity of the Chicago Bulls along with the explosive style of play of Derrick Rose made them one of the elite teams in the NBA.
During the 2010-2011 regular season the Bulls and Heat met 3 times and the Bulls won all three, so a Bulls versus Heat playoff series was in high demand. The hatred for the Heat was at such a high volume that season and the Bulls seemed to be the Heat’s only true competition in the Eastern Conference. The demand for a Bulls versus Heat playoff series came fruition as the two beasts of the East were set to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls started the series off with a game 1 victory but the Miami made adjustments and won the last 4 consecutive games of that series and were looking like a championship-caliber team.
The Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals in 6 games.
The following season the Bulls and Heat seemed to have grown a dislike for one another but still had a mutual respect for each other on a competitive level. Throughout the 2011-2012 season the Bulls and Heat had 4 physical battles of which each team won 2 and it only seem natural that they would meet for another Eastern Conference Finals battle. But the rematch never took place due to the Bulls being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by the Philadelphia 76ers after losing Derrick Rose to a torn ACL and Joakim Noah to a high ankle sprain.
This season the Bulls and Heat have taken to completely different paths to get to the playoffs. The Bulls have struggled throughout the season with Derrick Rose missing the entire season with his ACL injury and several other Bulls players that battled with multiple injuries. With all of the injuries and the absence of their star player, the Bulls still fought for the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference and they fought even harder to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. While the Bulls struggled, the Miami Heat were cruising. The Heat dominated all season, they even going on a 27-game winning streak at one point and went 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Despite how they got here, they are here for what I hope will be an instant classic of a playoff series. This Bulls team may be limited with players but they have more than enough heart and fight in them. The Heat are the clear favorites–and the deserve to be–but they have played the Bulls enough to know they must bring their best effort in order to withstand the Bulls’ physical play.