Sunday was the game everyone was waiting for on the NBA schedule, with the Chicago Bulls facing off against the Miami Heat in South Beach, and it didn't disappointment. It went down to the wire with Miami outlasting Chicago 97-93, but as a Bulls fan, I didn't feel as optimistic about it as some.
Listening to the fans, they kept harping on the fact that Luol Deng and C.J. Watson sat out for the Bulls, and they still almost won. That the game was in Miami added even more fodder to their argument.
But looking closer, and looking at it objectively and not as a fan, the only reason the Bulls were even in the game was because of Derrick Rose. I would say he wouldn't let them lose, but they did.
The crazy thought to me was that some people in the media blamed Rose for the loss. Watching him carry the team on his back, I thought he should have been entering one of those strong man competitions on TV.
So what's different from last year? It was Rose or bust then too.
The only real change on the roster was the addition of Rip Hamilton. He was supposed to be the piece to get them by Miami. He only scored 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting, but he was still feeling the effects of a pulled groin muscle, along with a thigh bruise.
What's scary is that a groin muscle is something that lingers. With the shortened season, it only exasperates the problem.
The Bulls are now going to rest him for a while, which is something they should have probably done all along. Playing that meaningless early-season game against his former team in Detroit turned a nagging injury into something that is now a cause for concern.
Getting back to the game, it's easy to see the argument that with Deng and Watson both in uniform, the outcome would have been different. So why shouldn't the Bulls be able to usurp them in the playoffs assuming all hands are on board at that time?
My issue with that argument is that I just don't buy it.
The Bulls played the Heat tight last year too in the playoffs, but when the final horn rang, they were on the wrong side of the ledger.
I don't see what the Bulls have done to change that.
Realistically nobody can say that Deng will ever be healthy this year, but even if he is, who is the guy who creates his own shot other than Rose? That guy is not on the roster.
Watson is a big improvement from John Lucas lll, but how many minutes is he going to get in the playoffs against Miami? If he's in the game more than normal, it will be as a 2-guard, because other than Rose, he's probably the best player on the team at getting his own shot.
The problem with that is the Bulls have no size in the backcourt with him and Rose playing together.
And the one thing everybody missed or didn't think about is how the Heat played the Bulls. Do you think they're going to let Rose constantly attack the basket come May like he did on Sunday?
They didn't switch LeBron on him for the entire fourth quarter like they did in the playoffs.
Miami doesn't care about making a point now. They know it only matters when the real games start.
For the Bulls on the other hand, they are trying to build confidence that they can beat Miami.
That's why Rose was so upset after the game. He hates to lose, and there could be a thought in his head that the same scenario might replay itself in the playoffs.
He's going to do everything he can not to let that happen, but he can't do it all by himself, no matter how spectacular he is. (And he is spectacular.)
The one thing that could change that is the news that Dwight Howard is now saying he would be willing to come to Chicago.
I don't know if the Bulls can pull that off. Deng would have to be in it, and he's not going to pass a physical with his injury.
The rejuvenated Noah along with some other pieces would be thrown in to make it work.
From my point of view, that's as likely to happen as the Bulls beating the Heat in the playoffs this year.
Unfortunately, it's probably the only way they have a chance.