No one – and I mean NO ONE – had the Bulls winning Game 1 last night over the Miami Heat. Hell, a lot of people did not have the Bulls winning a game in this series. But if anyone paid attention to the Bulls’ last series, they beat a Brooklyn Nets team who was better on paper – not to mention a helluva lot healthier. Chicago was a walking M.A.S.H. unit throughout that series, yet it gutted a win on the road in Game 7 in a rather convincing matter.
That’s the sign of a very tough team.
If that’s not proof-positive enough, check out the players who made the biggest difference for Chicago. Joakim Noah, suffering from plantar fasciitis (a VERY painful foot injury), recorded a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds). Nate Robinson, busted nose and all, led his team (and all scorers) with 27 points – which included going 3-8 from three-point range – while handing out nine assists. Jimmy Butler scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while playing ALL 48 MINUTES.
Plus no Luol Deng (hospitalization), and of course no Derrick Rose. And the Bulls STILL took Game 1 and thus stole home-court advantage from the Heat. Pretty tough if you ask me.
I don’t know about you, but I think Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau has proven to be one of the better coaches in the NBA (next to only Boston’s Doc Rivers). In fact, I would go as far to say that he deserves to be considered for Coach of the Year honors. What Thibodeau has done with his group, sans Rose, has been extraordinary. He willed the Bulls to 45 wins! If Rose was healthy Chicago would have challenged Miami for the league’s best record.
The Heat have a fight on their hands, and the Bulls are not going to go quietly. After all, tough coach plus tough players plus tough will and heart equals a tough out for the Heat.