9:00 AM CDT, March 28, 2013
The undermanned Bulls ended the Heat’s 27-game winning streak Wednesday night, and of course the 1972 Miami Dolphins popped champagne. Or something like that.
But with Nazr Mohammed starting -- no lie -- and Kirk Hinrich ripping the ball out of Chris Bosh’s hands near the end, the Bulls displayed great heart, strategy and effort to beat the best team in the NBA, the reigning and future champions.
Which is why the win meant almost nothing. The reigning champions are the future champions.
Don't be that guy who attaches playoff significance to this regular-season win. While the game provided great drama, the most important thing to come out of the win is that it moved the Bulls farther from the eighth playoff spot and a first-round strafing by the Heat.
The Bulls weren’t celebrating afterward, but winning a regular-season game at home is worth a celebration of its own for this loopy bunch. Some Bulls players said they can beat anybody, which is what you expect them to say, but they have to know it’s hollow. They have to know they couldn’t do that to the Heat four times in two weeks in the playoffs.
If they don’t know it, I do. They can’t. Not unless James suffers a season-ending injury.
The Bulls claimed the game Wednesday had a playoff feel. But it looked like the Heat were Georgetown and the Bulls were North Carolina State. That kind of playoff game. The kind where it was hard for the heavy favorite to take the short-handed bunch seriously.
Here’s the thing about games with a playoff feel: Miami knows what an actual playoff game that decides an NBA title feels like, while these Bulls don’t. Miami knows the real playoff game will be more stifling because each team will be scouted with greater scrutiny. That favors the Heat because no matter how much the Bulls study and strategize, James is still better than anybody in the league at both ends of the court and a lot smarter than anybody talks about.
The Bulls’ strategy Wednesday was to concede James his points, but deny him the chance to facilitate the offense. It’s the strategy of choice when facing all great players. James led everybody with 32 points Wednesday, but managed only three assists. It worked.
James is too good and too smart to spend two weeks failing to figure out a solution. See last year for details.
Presuming Dwyane Wade will be healthy if these teams meet in the playoffs, the Heat have two stars who can take you off the dribble. The Bulls don’t have one player who can get his own shot. In Nate Robinson’s case, the Bulls don’t have a player you necessarily want finding his own shot.
The Bulls would have to execute great ball movement for two weeks, but anything short of great passing will turn into the deflections and steals that fuel the Heat’s killer transition offense. Sorry, but I don’t see the Bulls executing that four times in seven games against the Heat.
The Bulls hold a size and rebounding advantage in the frontcourt, which they rode to Wednesday night’s win. The Bulls also rode that advantage to a season-series demolition of the Heat two years ago, and how’d that play out in the postseason with a Bulls team that was better than this one?
Presuming Joakim Noah and Marco Bellinelli will be healthy for the playoffs, the Bulls will be a better team than the one that beat Miami on Wednesday. But the Bulls still will be the kind of scrappy, hard-working team that you want to pet, while the Heat will remain the team that knows when it’s time to be unstoppable.
Geez, I can’t believe I’m breaking down a playoff matchup in March with this ragged Bulls squad. But I guess I just did. I got suckered into projecting postseason meaning from one regular-season outcome even after saying it would mean almost nothing. I’m an idiot. I'm "that guy." Guilty. Heat in 5.
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