Talk all you want about the Bulls’ overtime win against the Heat on national TV on Sunday, but ask yourself this:
Was that the same Bulls roster that lost to Memphis at home on Friday night?
Spoiler alert: Yes, it was.
Additional spoiler alert: The Memphis game is closer to what the Bulls' roster actually is than the Miami outcome.
Sure, the Bulls get up for the Heat. Who doesn’t?
Get up for Memphis, would you?
The Bulls showed a lot of fight and hustle and completely outworked the Heat on Sunday. They got extra possessions and second-chance points.
But where was that kind of winning approach against the Grizzlies? Shouldn’t the Grizzlies have been an easier foe than the two-time defending champions with the best player in the league?
Spoiler alert: Yes, they should’ve.
But no, the Bulls couldn’t shoot, defend, rebound or stop the Grizzlies’ from second-chance opportunities -- all the things that were different Sunday.
And that kind of difference was noted by LeBron James, the aforementioned best player in the league, no matter how loudly Bulls fans chanted "M-V-P"’ for Joakim Noah.
"They get up for us,"’ James said. "They play differently against us. I just watched them against Memphis, the full game, and they didn’t play like this. They play differently against us, rightfully so. I understand it. They’re a very good team. It’s always fun."
Why play differently against the Heat than the Grizzlies? Why get up for the Heat but not the Grizzlies?
The NBA is all about matchups, I know. But if the Bulls can junk up the Heat, they ought to be able to beat the junk game that Memphis wants to play.
They didn’t, and that tells you what kind of work the Bulls have to do mentally and emotionally when when it comes to imposing their game on opponents, no matter the opponent.
These Bulls never have won a title. These Bulls never have beaten Miami when it counts. These Bulls are the champions of the Heat during the regular season. Congratulations. What trophy do they give out for that?
Because I know the trophy they give out in June, and I know the Heat has held it up each of the last two years.
The Bulls hate the Heat, and that’s fine. Michael Jordan ginned up all kinds of fiction to hate whoever was next.
But here’s the thing about Jordan, too: Whoever was next was the most important thing to hate.
Jordan learned that getting up for the Pistons and Celtics is just a sign of weakness if you were going to lose to, I don’t know, the Nets and Clippers.
Getting up for the teams that nobody gets up for is where you see maturity. Getting up for the reigning MVP is expected, if the reigning MVP refused to show the Bulls the respect of getting up for them.
Jimmy Butler gets credit for making plays on James at the end, but James stole money Sunday. He looked like he didn’t care. Heartless. Uninspiring. He refused to make a difference for the first 2 1/2 quarters, and it wasn’t all Butler and Noah that made him turtle, believe me.
Whatever James’ reasons, he ripped off his team and gave the Bulls a chance. He refused to force plays going to the basket to the point where he failed to take a free throw for the first time since 2009.
But even looking as if someone should tag his section of Mt. Rushmore, James still had 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
So, James stunk out of indifference for a majority of the game, and still almost put up a triple-double, and the Bulls still needed overtime to win.
Wise up if you think that would be the result four times in two weeks in the playoffs. It hasn’t yet. It hasn’t happened yet because the Heat know what matters and can do something about it.
Spoiler alert: The Bulls haven’t figured out the second part of that equation and never will as long as a healthy and interested James keeps his talents in South Beach.
You can get mad at me and accuse me of dumping on a big win. Fine. Truth hurts sometimes. Perspective hurts sometimes. Don’t come here for thumbsucker stuff until a team does what the Blackhawks did last June.