The streak is finally over! That’s right, the Chicago Bulls defeated the Miami Heat last night with the final score of 101-97 in Chicago in front of 23,000 fans. There are many significant reasons why this victory was much needed for the Bulls as well as the NBA but none more so than the fact that in the face of major adversity (Chicago had four players injured) and odds stacked against them due obviously to the fact that Miami had won its past 27 games in a row, the Bulls came out and every player who stepped on the floor stepped up to ensure the victory.
Carlos Boozer was by far the player who stepped up the most last night, and it’s a good thing too seeing as Joakim Noah sat out with plantar fascitis in his right foot. With Noah on the bench, it was the perfect time for Taj Gibson to make his return as well. As we know, Gibson missed the last ten games with a sprained MCL in his right knee. So with Gibson back, he and Boozer were able to anchor the front court for the Bulls and dominate the Heat in the one spot that they have been weak all season…down low. Overall, the Bulls out rebounded the Heat 43-31 due in large part to Boozer’s 17 boards. Boozer was not only a force on the glass; he dropped 21 points and limited Chris Bosh to only four boards in the game.
Boozer has often been criticized for his lack of effort and talent based on the contract he signed with the Bulls, and even I questioned whether he was worth the money. After seeing last night’s performance, I have no problem saying that Boozer is key to Chicago’s success.
The next player who really stepped up for Chicago was Jimmy Butler. That’s right, the second year player out of Marquette University has been making a name for himself all season after seeing limited minutes last season. With the way he is playing, it’s not hard to see him becoming a star player for the Bulls in the near future. He had 17 points as well as five assists and at times handled the responsibility of covering LeBron James and did so as well as anyone I’ve seen. Butler’s play of the game came when he threw down a one-handed alley-oop over Bosh off the pass from Luol Deng. Butler has all the components that define Chicago players, and if he puts in the work to make his jump shot deadly, he will continue to grow for the Bulls.
The third and final player that really impressed last night was Deng. The man had 28 points including several huge buckets down the stretch that foiled any comeback attempts from the Heat. He also shouldered the load of covering James the majority of the night and finally, he played 44 minutes; the most on the team…again.
Chicago played a physical game and everyone knows it. Personally, that style of play suits them and this victory makes it very clear that no team should want to face them in a seven game series come playoff time. Without Noah, Derrick Rose, Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton the Bulls were able to switch lineups around to make it work and it did. The Bulls made a statement last night and the entire league heard it. If the Bulls continue to play the way they did last night for the rest of the season, the league should be concerned. No team more so than the Brooklyn Nets who hold the fourth seed in the playoff scheme right now. If seedings were to stay the same, Brooklyn would be set to play Chicago in a seven game series, a task I don’t think any team wants to do after last night’s performance.