Tonight’s game is home for the Bulls against the two time NBA Champions, three time Eastern Conference Champions, and hated “rivals” of the Bulls, the Miami Heat.
I put rivals in quotes, because really, the Bulls haven’t done much to make that rivalry a real thing. Much of that has been bad luck, with injuries killing the Bulls in the playoffs basically every year for the last two years (Asik in 2011, Rose’s ACL in 2012, basically the whole team in 2012), and Derrick Rose’s torn meniscus dashing the Bulls hopes to compete with Miami this year. Nevertheless, calling this a rivalry is a bit misleading as the Bulls have only been able to play relatively even with the Heat in the regular season, only to fall short in the playoffs, bad luck or no. There’s plenty of animosity between the two clubs, though, and the Bulls do tend to bring their best effort when Miami comes to town.
The Bulls ability to even stick close to Miami tonight seems to be in serious doubt. There’s no Derrick Rose, as everyone is well aware, and there’s not even any Mike James, which means (sorry, Caleb) noted train wreck Marquis Teague will be required to see meaningful minutes in this game. Teague was supposed to be developing in the D-League right now, until Mike James’s sprained knee put him on the shelf for at least a week or two. The Bulls will also still be without Jimmy Butler, who generally is very helpful at making the Heat’s superstar wing duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade work for their points a little more than usual. With no dynamic ball-handling presences available, the Bulls will likely be swarmed by Miami’s frenetic, helter-skelter defense and on the other end, without Butler to pair with Deng to slow Wade and James, the Bulls figure to be in big trouble. We’ll get to see how Luol Deng holds up as the first option against one of the league’s very best and most athletic defenses. Hopefully Lu can surprise us, but I’m guessing this one will be pretty ugly. Last I checked the Bulls were 5.5 point underdogs, and I would be shocked if the final score of the game was even half that close. We can hope though!