With the ancient Celtics having recently exposed the Magic’s lack of heart — not once but twice! — the Bulls and the Heat are currently the only viable contenders to rule the Eastern Conference. Sunday’s game in Miami provides a wonderful opportunity for Chicago to chill the Heat’s championship pretensions.
Meanwhile, the home standing Heat have the opportunity to prevent the Bulls from even dreaming that they can compete on equal terms with the holdover conference champs. Again, in this compacted and bizarre season, every game has an enhanced and disproportional importance.
HOW THE BULLS CAN WIN: Derrick Rose has become the most potent point guard in the NBA. Although his unselfishness and considerable ball-time result in his being one of the league’s leading assist-makers, Rose is really the Bulls’ go-to scorer. That’s because his shooting stroke has greatly improved, he’s nearly as strong as a power-forward, and his quickness and speed are otherworldly. Indeed, where other players are celebrated for the quickness of their first-step, Rose accelerates as he approaches the rim — making his second- and third-steps incredibly unique. Also, players necessarily lose a half-beat when they resort to some kind of crossover dribble, but Rose’s changes-of-direction likewise amp up his quickness. And with Dwayne Wade not at 100 percent, none of Miami’s backcourtsmen can contain Rose.