I love my Chicago Bulls and it is hard not to admire the heart they have played with this post-season with injuries to so many of their keys players. Going into the playoffs we all were aware that Joakim Noah would not be 100% with his plantar fasciitis but he showed his heart and helped lead the Bulls past the Brooklyn Nets after a long 7-game series. By the end of that 7-game series with the Nets, Joakim seemed to be closer to being 100% but the Bulls lost Kirk Hinrich to a calf injury and Luol Deng to a bad reaction to a spinal tap (plus Derrick Rose has missed an entire year).
In the 4 game series against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat were seemingly toying with the Bucks. I say this because if you watched those games, you would notice that in the first half the Bucks seemed to be legitimate competition to the Heat but in the second half the Heat would pull away and just embarrass the Bucks. The Heat have a bad habit of playing down to the competition but with the talent on their team they are usually capable overcoming their misjudgments.
In game 1 of the Bulls/Heat series the Bulls were the better team, they came out with more heart and focus than the Heat and the Bulls were the aggressors throughout that entire game. Looking back it is easy to say that the Heat underestimated the Bulls but these teams are far too familiar with each other for me to believe that. I think the Bulls were running off of adrenaline from an emotional game 7 win over the Brooklyn Nets after facing so much adversity and they just plainly outplayed the Heat.
Game 2 was the difference maker in this series, the Heat led by as much as 46 points. The Bulls lost composure in game 2 with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both being ejected for shouting at the referees. The Heat stayed focused and the talent on the Heat stabbed the Bulls in the heart. In game 3 Joakim Noah lost his composure again by shoving Chris Andersen and Nazr Mohammed lost his composure by getting ejected for pushing LeBron James to the floor. Game 3 was a close game throughout despite Noah’s and Mohammed’s blow-ups. The Bulls stayed focused but the Heat shut down Nate Robinson and the Heat’s bench players (especially Norris Cole) stepped up in a big way.
The Bulls are tired, they are playing basically with a 7 man rotation and 3 of their best players have yet to play a minute in the series. Game 4 the Bulls looked exhausted and the Heat looked championship-bound. I am expecting the Bulls to come out with energy and heart and putting up a hell of a fight but–as much as it hurts me to say–it won’t be enough. The Heat will win game 5 and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals and end the Bulls’ season.