After a gut-wrenching seven game series against the Brooklyn Nets, the task gets even tougher for the Chicago Bulls.
As the Bulls prepare for their second round series against the Miami Heat, the team will be shorthanded for at least game one of the series and likely more. With Luol Deng preparing to travel with the team to Miami on Sunday, an unexpected return trip to the ER has forced the Bulls forward out of Monday’s game one.
Now the task of defending the NBA’s MVP LeBron James falls in the hands of second year guard Jimmy Butler.
While the challenge seems tough for Butler and the Bulls, they aren’t backing down. Nor have they all season long.
In a season full of injuries, waiting for a certain star player to return, and a few surprises, the Bulls find themselves in a second round playoff match-up against a Miami Heat team who many are predicting a cake walk to the NBA Finals.
Yet the Bulls won 40+ games without their superstar point guard and what seemed like a new injury to a player every game. This team doesn’t give up, and won’t give up. That was proven when the Bulls won an impressive game seven at Brooklyn to avoid elimination.
The Bulls hope to get a key piece back into their starting lineup in point guard Kirk Hinrich, whose defense proved to be key in the first few games against Brooklyn. Hinrich will be a game time decision but has ‘improved’ since suffering the injury after the Bulls game four win a week ago.
Getting Hinrich back could be a major factor in the Bulls chances of pulling off an upset in this series. Surely a road win in the first two games of this series would improve those chances, and the first one comes Monday night.
Miami is coming off a four game sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks, and have had a week of rest since their game four win in Milwaukee.
The Heat owned the NBA’s best regular season record, and have gone an incredible 41-2 in their last 43 games. The two teams did split the season series at two games a piece.
If the Bulls wan’t to slow down Miami and pull off a win in game one, they might have to rely on a back court rotation that features Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Marco Bellinelli and Marquis Teague.
That rotation played well against Brooklyn and will be key to success for Chicago starting with game one. But it’s not all on that rotation, as Bulls starters Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah must win their match-ups in the post.
While Miami is considered the favorite to win the series, the Bulls have yet to back down from any challenge this season. However, this challenge could prove to be the toughest one yet.