For Chicago, it was the return of former MVP Derrick Rose after missing a year and a half with a torn ACL. They were also playing against the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs two out of the last three seasons, including last year. For Miami, they are defending their second-straight NBA title and are looking ahead to a season full of questions about the future of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The starting five on both teams are filled with All-Stars and excellent role players. Miami has their “Big 3” along with Mario Chalmers and team captain Udonis Haslem. The Bulls have Rose and three former All-Stars Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. With Rose out and Deng injured, they also saw the emergence of second-year pro Jimmy Butler as an excellent defender and an able scorer.
With all these big named players, the biggest difference between the two teams on Tuesday was the depth Miami has.
When Miami turns to their bench, they have Chris Andersen, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Norris Cole to come in the game. If anybody gets hurt or is in foul trouble, they can turn to former 3-point shootout champion James Jones, former All-Star Rashard Lewis or former no. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley.
For Chicago, they only have Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy and Taj Gibson as legitimate difference-makers off the bench. The Bulls were forced to use Tony Snell when both Butler and Deng got into foul trouble, and he went 0-for-3 in seven minutes of action.
On Tuesday night, the five Bulls reserves were a combined -61 and shot 9-for-26 from the field for 26 points. The Heat reserves were a combined +55 and shot 16-for-25 from the field and scored 42 points. With the Heat bench outscoring the Bulls bench by 16 and a winning margin of only 12, it shows that the two starting fives are pretty even, but the Heat separated from Chicago when the starters went to the bench.
The depth the Heat has will allow them to rest their starters for long periods and also mix and match based on who they are playing. The Bulls, on the other hand, will be forced to play their starters longer minutes, which will wear them out towards the end of the season just like it did last year.