The two best teams in the Eastern Conference are left standing. However, don't say that to all of the Miami Heat sycophants and bandwagon fans. They were too busy telling everyone that the Heat would wrap this series up in a sweep or five games. Well after last night's complete destruction of the Heat by the Bulls, those fans will have to hope the Heat can beat the Bulls four straight. This series will put to the test the age old question, can superstars alone defeat a cohesive, complete team? The answer is usually no.
Eastern Conference Finals
#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #2 Miami Heat
The Heat have been perhaps the most talked about team in NBA history. Every loss has been treated as the end of the world, while every win has been built to astronomical proportions. A lot of that has to do with LeBron James. Despite having won nothing of note in his NBA career, people constantly want to crown this guy. After beating an aging, injured Boston Celtics team you would have thought the NBA should have just canceled the rest of the NBA playoffs and made the Heat champs. Nevermind that the Bulls led the NBA in wins or were led by the MVP of the league, the sensational Derrick Rose.
Last night, the Bulls stifled James and Dwyane Wade, and Wade was posterized by Taj Gibson in one of the most memorable dunks I have ever seen. The Bulls dominated the offensive glass, especially one of the hardest workers in the league, Joakim Noah. I never thought it possible after he was a Florida Gator, but I am definitely on Team Noah. The only player to do anything of note for the Heat was Charmin-soft Chris Bosh, who poured in 30 points, but it wasn't surprising those points came in a blow-out loss. Lost in all of this is that the Bulls are now 4-0 against the Heat this season.
Don't get me wrong, I don't expect the Bulls to blow out the Heat in every game this series. But maybe it reminded some people that the Heat are still just a 2 1/2 man team. Sure James Jones or Joel Anthony might have a good game here or there, but can you really see a team winning a championship with the following players expected to contribute? Mario Chalmers, Jamaal Magloire, a hobbled Udonis Haslem, 125-year old Juwan Howard, 118-year old Mike Bibby, and Mike Miller. We also may get the pleasure of seeing 144-year old Zydrunas Ilgauskas play meaningful minutes. There is no denying that the Bulls bench blows the Heat's out of the water.
Luol Deng was magnificent in Game 1, making life hell for James, and also contributing on the offensive end, taking some pressure off Rose. Deng will be the Bulls x-factor in this series. The fear for the Bulls was who else would step up and score besides Rose? Deng has to be consistent throughout this series. It will be a lot to ask of him though with guarding James being his primary responsibility. That means that Carlos Boozer has to take the next step in his career and have a solid series on one of the biggest stages. Boozer finally seems to be coming around, and has put together a solid string of games recently.
I will abstain from making a prediction on this series for superstitious purposes but I hope that the basketball Gods will once again make it known, teams always beat superstars.