The Chicago Bulls stunned the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday by bouncing them from the playoffs in a 99-93 win without two of their stars. Luol Deng has been in and out of the hospital after a spinal tap and Derrick Rose hasn’t seen the court all season though it didn’t stop the Bulls from advancing.
They will now take on the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat in the second round and hope to have similar success to their regular season meetings. The Bulls split four games with the Heat this year, but ended their historical 27-game win streak back in late March.
The Heat have since ran away with the Eastern Conference and will now look for revenge against the Bulls after a first round sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks. LeBron James will lead the way after being named the NBA’s MVP for the fourth time last week.
The Chicago Bulls will be without Luol Deng for the opener at the least as he returned to the emergency room on Sunday due to complications with his spinal tap. Derrick Rose is also not expected to play, and some believe it’s time for him to announce that he won’t return at all this postseason.
Nevertheless, the Bulls are one of the most defensively sound teams in the NBA and they have continued to win without their stars. Joakim Noah has stepped up in the process and he has no plans of giving up on his teammates just yet.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” Noah said after knocking out the Nets on Saturday. “We’ve been fighting through so much all year and to be in this situation, play on the biggest stage in the world and to be able to win and now play against the Heat, all these experiences, I (don’t) take those for granted.”
The Bulls have their work cut out for them Monday night but they shouldn’t need much motivation with Noah leading the way. The 28-year-old is one of the most aggressive and active big men in the game and has had success against the Heat in the past.
Can the Chicago Bulls upset the Miami Heat in the conference semi-finals, or will their playoff run be cut short by the defending champs?
[Image via Keith Allison]