Wait a minute, how did the Heat get there before the Bulls?

Wait a minute, wasn’t the whole idea of finishing first in the Eastern Conference precisely because the Bulls would avoid playing Boston AND Miami?

Wasn’t the idea that Boston and Miami would beat up each other?

Wasn’t the idea that the Bulls had the easiest road to the conference finals and beyond?

And here are the Bulls, unable to squash the frequently splintered Hawks, forced to play a Game 6 tonight and maybe a Game 7 on Sunday, while the Heat destroyed the Celtics in five games, guaranteeing itself at least three days rest before the conference finals.

The Heat came back on the Celtics on Wednesday night to wipe out the former power, then acted like it won something big. Figures. This is the bunch that held a victory celebration because three guys took almost $100 million.

Two things about that:

One, there’s even more reason to despise that team, and two, more importantly for the Bulls, there’s even more reason to fear that team.

This is not the Heat bunch that the Bulls swept in the regular season. This is not the Heat bunch that lost five of its first eight games and 12 of its first 24. Nope, this is the Heat bunch that has become the Death Star that everyone feared. Three big names got together the way they did in Boston, and then LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh beat Boston into the shell-of-its-former-self phase.

They can be whiny, loathsome and arrogant. They also can be great. They certainly are right now. They are better than the Bulls. You can argue that the Bulls have greater bench depth than the Heat, and you’d be right.

But the Heat has greater superstar depth, and remember, this is a superstar’s league. The NBA wanted it this way. The NBA made rules to ensure it. The NBA gets marquee names on the playoff marquee, although I think the Grizzlies had a lot of people in the league office bleeding out of their ears for a while.

LeBron James scored the last 10 points in Miami's 16-0 run that ended both Game 5 and the Celtics’ season. Derrick Rose went off for 44 against Atlanta last week. But here’s the thing: If James hadn’t done it, Dwyane Wade could and likely would have; if Rose doesn’t do it for the Bulls, it doesn’t get done.

You know what the Heat will bring now, and it will unguardable. You don’t know what the Bulls will bring tonight, which suddenly feels like a must-win game, despite the Bulls’ holding a series lead. The Bulls were supposed to have the easier path to the conference finals. The Heat got there first because they made their path easier the way the Bulls couldn’t. Scary stuff. Daunting stuff.

But omigod, potentially fun, compelling, emotional stuff.

A win tonight, and the Bulls set up an NBA Finals one round early, and in Hollywood style, too. Bulls-heat would be the best story the NBA could imagine or conspire to create.

Good vs. Evil.

The surprising, inexperienced bunch who made the ugly, loudmouth bullies cry.

A Miami star returning home after jacking around Chicago with bald-faced free-agent phoniness.

The Coach of the Year vs. the coach who seemed close to being fired this year.

But mostly, such a series would be the young MVP against the best player in the league in his prime.

Derrick Skywalker vs. Darth James.

As a great fictional character once said, “Do or do not. There is no try.’’

 
CHICAGO

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