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Bulls Mon May 06 2013

Bulls' Exhausting Season Rolls on to Miami

Bulls_200.pngAny hope for a banged-up Bulls team, missing their starting point guard and All-Star forward, to go into Brooklyn and win Game 7 against a streaking Nets team was just the kind of delusional faith the Bulls needed to ignore their shortcomings and win. And win they did. The depleted and damaged-goods Bulls handled their business trip like professionals. In Game 7, they never trailed at any point. It's not very often the less talented team in a playoff series goes up three games to one, then loses two in a row forcing a game seven, then said less-than squad marches into enemy territory without two of its starters and dominates every facet of a round-clinching battle. Would you expect anything less dramatic from these Chicago Bulls?

Joakim Noah, who has more heart in his bum foot than the Nets do on their entire roster, scored 24 points, had 11 rebounds, and blocked six shots. Over the entire series, he averaged 11 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks a game, but just as importantly, played outstanding basketball in the game's crunch time moments. It was a career defining series for Noah, who in his first couple of seasons was viewed as solely a energy-rich fan favorite. Now he is considered one of the toughest and best centers to ever play for the Chicago Bulls franchise.

Luol Deng missed games six and seven with a meningitis scare which required a spinal tap on Wednesday, then he had to make a return trip to the emergency room Friday for a blood patching procedure. How much money has WebMD made off of Bulls fans visiting their site daily this year? The Bulls needed to rely on Jimmy Butler and they weren't disappointed. He played every minute of both games and made up for Deng's absent production. Butler looked unafraid, and is a player who can perhaps wear out Dwayne Wade and his bothersome knee, but let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Carlos Boozer may have shed his malcontent image and has gained favor in the minds of Bulls fans who've called for him to be amnestied. Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli picked up the shooting slack, and fortunately they hit close to 45 percent of their shots over the last two games. Nazr Mohammed, all series long, made the most of his minutes. Even Daequan Cook made an appearance and connected on a three. This entire team has put team first and played their role well.

A storyline that wouldn't go away all year was that the Bulls management in the off-season was treating this year as a wash and singed cheap players who weren't nearly as good as the previous campaign's group. Last year's "bench mob" was more talented but this year's has done a whole lot more winning when it mattered. A hat should be tipped in the direction of said management -- and to Tom Thibodeau, who can get the most out of any player who buys into his system and patiently waits his turn.

Bulls fans merely have a day and a half to enjoy this win. If this wrap-up to round one piece, and any other you've clicked on the web, seems like a conclusion to the season type of article, it kind of is. There's a feeling of that round one was the Bulls' "NBA Finals." With the well-rested Miami Heat playing more disciplined and focused basketball than they did last year, no one expects the Bulls to win more than one game in round two.

An in-depth preview of the series is almost an inappropriate waste of words. Back in March, the Bulls showed the NBA how to beat the Miami Heat in a single regular season game. The only takeaway the Bulls can use in round two from that streak-busting match is to irritate LeBron James, and that will work for only a quarter or two this time around. James will adjust to anything the Bulls could possibly throw at him. Outside of James injuring himself -- which is nothing no self-respecting basketball fan would wish for -- the outcome of each game will fall on the MVP.

The Bulls' blueprint for how to win in the playoffs will keep them in every game: team defense, contested high percentage field goals, a quality over quantity approach on three-pointers, and winning every intangible battle. There is reason to get excited with this match-up. It'll be a downright display of hard-nosed, half-court playoff basketball. As in life, it's more about the journey than destination.

So if you'd like to purchase Round Three playoff tickets now, by all means go ahead, they're refundable if the Bulls don't advance. The fight that the Bulls will put forth in the next 10 days or so just won't be enough to beat the Heat four times out of seven. This battle, however, may be the toughest one the Heat face all playoffs long, including the NBA Finals. But who knows, the Bulls have surprised all season long, and perhaps their disdain for the Heat will be enough to overcome all their inadequacies, and they could will themselves to the biggest upset in playoff history. Or they'll get swept. Either way, there's some good basketball ahead of us, so stay tuned.

 
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