Up until now, the Chicago Bulls' schedule has been everything but normal.
They started the season out with five road games and one home game in the month of December. Next, they continued by playing 19 games in the 31-day month of January.
To say this has been a gruesome schedule for the Bulls would be an understatement.
What makes the next three months exciting is the fact that the Bulls will be playing some very talented teams and face very tough competition.
Let's take a look at seven of those games that you aren't going to want to miss.
This is the game that the Bulls have been preparing for since the Heat knocked them out of the Eastern Conference playoffs last May.
The storyline for the Bulls this game will be the health of Luol Deng and Taj Gibson. Not only will that be the headline, but depending of the health of those two will depend on who wins the game. Without Deng or Gibson, the Bulls are going to have a tough uphill battle beginning at tip-off.
For the Heat, Dwayne Wade's lingering ankle injury will be their biggest concern as they try to keep the "big three" on the court together.
The Bulls will have to adjust to the Heat's new offseason acquisition, Shane Battier. Battier, being one of the best defenders in the game, will surely increase the defensive productiveness of the Heat. Because of this, the Bulls will need to play one of their best games offensively, not only to beat Battier and the rest of the Heat defense, but because they will need to be able to keep up with the high octane offense of the Heat who are number two in the NBA in points per game (104.4).
After peeling back all the layers that go into this game, what it will come down to is how well the Bulls, as a team, are able to keep up with the "big three." Last year, success came easily to the Bulls in the regular season with a record of 3-0 against the Heat. But come playoff time, the Bulls couldn't run with them in a seven-game series.
So if the Bulls do get a victory in Miami, don't start preaching a championship just yet.
But you can relax just a bit.
The Bulls visit the Spurs after a six-game, three-week home-stand.
And while age defines this Spurs team, it definitely doesn't limit them.
Starting out quickly with a 12-8 record, the Spurs are not to be taken lightly. Scoring the third most points per game (99.5), this will be another team that will challenge this tough Bulls defense who is leading the league in points given up per game (86.3).
This will be one of eight Western Conference matchups the Bulls have in the second half of this shortened season. With Western teams there comes the high powered offense, and the Spurs are no different. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have traditionally been hard to handle for the Bulls.
The matchup to watch in this game is the Bulls backcourt against the Spurs backcourt. The Bulls backcourt typically gives up around 35.1 points a game while the Spurs backcourt scores around 43 points a game. If the Bulls backcourt defenders such as Derrick Rose, Rip Hamilton and even C.J Watson can turn up the defensive intensity, the Bulls will have a good chance to win this game by preventing Tony Parker and Gary Neal from controlling the game with their ability to score.
While the Bulls have been able to beat teams with their depth this year, the Spurs have a bench that is close to being able to give this Bulls bench a run for its money. Lead by Matt Boner, the Spurs backups can kill a team from the perimeter.
This will be another one of those games where the Bulls are going to have to be almost perfect on both sides of the ball to get the "W."
This is going to be the revenge game for Derrick Rose and Co.
After being beaten 95-90 at the United Center, the Bulls watched in horror as the Pacers celebrated their win like a playoff game...on the Bulls' home court.
To Derrick Rose, this was to much to bear, and he said, "I will never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game.."
The Pacers are one of the few teams that won't go away this year, and the Bulls are going to have to learn how to beat them now that they have been figured out.
Granted, they were missing Luol Deng and Taj Gibson in the loss, but the Pacers have been able to give the Bulls problems with Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Paul George in the backcourt, and Roy Hibbert down low.
With lots of uncertainties coming into this game, the one thing that we can be certain of is that this Bulls team will have this game circled on their schedule ready to attack.
Rose did say one last thing after his 'never forget' quote. He said , "I can't wait to play them again."
And with a development like this, as a Bulls fan, neither can I.
Part of a small amount of big games, this one is going to be a rare test at how well this Bulls team stacks up with the league's best.
With plenty of people predicting the Thunder to win it all, the Bulls find themselves playing a team they may very well meet in the NBA championship.
Lead by Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook, this Thunder team will give this Bulls defense fits. They are one of the top teams in points per game (99.3) and with Durant, can go on scoring runs that will be hard to come back from.
The key for the Bulls in this game is to utilize their bench as much as possible because with Durant and Westbrook on the bench together, the Thunder don't look so tough anymore.
If anything, watch this game because it features two of the youngest, most entertaining teams in the NBA.
This will be no April Fools joke.
These teams will be good for years to come, and watching a rivalry in the making is always a good time.
Three matchups later, and plenty of heated round-table discussions, this will be the last regular season matchup between the Heat and Bulls.
By now, these two teams will have been dissected and analyzed every way possible.
Also, because this game comes late in the season, it will most likely have some playoff consequences.
Say, a possible first seed in the East?
Once again, if the Bulls have everyone healthy, especially Luol Deng, the Bulls will give the Heat a run for their money. This will also give both teams an opportunity to size each other up before they most likely meet in the playoffs.
And as both Chicagoans and Miamians know, any game featuring both these teams is must watch TV.
Whenever the defending NBA champions come into town, it's going to be a game to watch.
Not only will this be a good opponent for the Bulls, but it will give them a chance to show off their team talent and to show the world that they are a real deal team who can beat the defending champs.
Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Lamar Odom, the list goes on and on. The Mavericks, much like the Bulls, will utilize their bench as much as they can. This game will mostly be about who can play the best defense and who has the better bench.
The Bulls will struggle with the Mavs' bench, who are the best in the league in scoring (44.7 PPG). But they just need to play their defense which, for bench players, is third in the league in points given up (27.7 PPG.)
This will be a game when an unstoppable force (Mavs' bench offense) meeting an immovable object (Bulls bench defense.)
Additionally, another Western Conference game will help the Bulls work out the kinks in their defense when they play a fast paced, high scoring team.
The second-to-last game of the season is no easy one for the Bulls. They have to go against the pestering Pacers in a game that may very well determine who wins the Central Division in the East.
By now, both teams will have seen each other twice and will have a good sense of how to beat the other.
Another outcome of this game is the fact that Indiana is trying to make a national case of being a prime destination for free agents. With the rumor of Eric Gordon possibly going to Indiana, the Pacers will be playing hard until the last whistle to try and attract top talent.
Another thing to consider going into this game is that the Pacers are one of the worst teams, point wise, in the month of April only scoring 97.2 points a game, which is 19th in the league.
For the second-to-last game, this will be the final test for the Bulls who hope to go farther than the Eastern Conference finals this year.