There is so much time left. Time for the Heat to almost certainly win their seven-game series against the Chicago Bulls. Time for the Bulls to come back to earth and that ugly, growing, dark question mark to grow over Derrick Rose’s young legacy. Time to look back at Monday’s game and see it as a blip on Miami’s way to the dominance they’ve exerted most of this season.
But still, in the Bulls’ stunning 93-86 win in Miami, let us pause for a moment and stare in awe at Chicago’s unprecedented heart, toughness and resolve.
Let’s just enjoy it.
Could I be wrong? Should I go further? Perhaps you believe the Bulls can keep the shocks rolling and somehow beat the best team in the league without its own best two players and many of the others beaten up. Perhaps you’re so in awe of what happened Monday night you already believe. They could, sure. Anything can happen, true. But they won’t. And it hardly matters.
What the Bulls have done under the weird cloud of Rose’s refusal to play despite being medically cleared speaks to the power of not giving up. Of plowing through. Of being tough – not in the clichéd sense of the word, but in truly playing through awful pain and against awful odds because you believe the fight is as important as the outcome.
The Bulls very well could have and certainly should have lost in their first-round series to the Brooklyn Nets. But as they demonstrated again in Miami, they were more than their parts, better than their ailments, tougher than their opponent.
Just look at what’s been thrown in their way.
Derrick Rose still chilling on the sidelines, cheering in his fine suits while his medically-approved body won’t suit up? Check. Luol Deng with a spinal tap gone bad, suddenly unavailable at the most critical time? Yes. Kirk Hinrich also out? Why not. Nate Robinson puking during a Nets game after the flu found him? Not sure you can make this stuff up.
The Bulls limped into Miami as depleted physically as a playoff team can be. Joakim Noah is still feeling the effects of his plantar fasciitis injury. Rose is nothing more than a distraction. The rest of the guys were worn to the bone from that bruising Brooklyn series. Their opponent, the mighty Miami Heat, had lost just two games since Feb. 1, and only one in which LeBron James had played.
Yet heart won out.
Nate Robinson was remarkable again, cataloguing 27 points and nine assists to only three turnovers. So much for the Heat swallowing him whole, the way they had Rose two years ago.
Noah gutted out 13 points and 11 rebounds, Jimmy Butler stepped up for 21 points, and even Marco Belinelli (10 points and seven rebounds) and Taj Gibson (12 points) got into the action.
Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade mustered just 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting, Chris Bosh was so bad with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting it’s easy to forget he’s part of the Big Three, and Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers combined for nine points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Even LeBron looked rusty after Miami’s long layoff between series, scoring just two points in the first half before finishing with 24 points, seven assists and eight rebounds.
All season, and throughout these playoffs, the pundits, players, NBA front-office folks and most fans have seen the postseason as the Heat’s march toward certainty. I’ve been right there with them. They had a 27-game win streak, they had LeBron and Dwyane and Bosh behind them, they had Ray Allen, they had a championship DNA, they had no real challengers in the East.
On Monday, on the road, decimated and depleted, Chicago said not today, and it was something to see. Chicago said, for at least Game 1, we will not let it be easy. The Chicago Bulls reminded us that anything can happen in sports. It was so perplexing to watch it was special. It was a glimpse at what resolve can mean in the face of overwhelming odds, even if it can’t last.
Does this in any way mean the Bulls can keep conjuring some magic and best the Heat in seven? That this brittle team can somehow will its way past the best team in the league?
No. No no no no no.
It’s still silly to even suggest, Game 1 notwithstanding.
Then again, so did the idea in the first place the Bulls would win that game.
So let’s stop worrying for a day what this means. Let’s not focus on the Bulls’ likely return to reality and the Heat’s likely return to league mastery. Let’s just enjoy the fact that the most snake-bit team in the NBA just used the one trait we can all relate too, regardless of our physical skills, and enjoy it. Because while watching athletic greatness dominate can be cool, it turns out seeing a team fight through pain and blood and doubters because they have heart – real heart – is even more fun.