The Microscope is your recurring look at the NBA's small-scale developments—the rotational curiosities, skill showcases, coaching decisions, notable performances and changes in approach that make the league go 'round.
The Blood Feud of Chicago and Miami
It doesn't take any kind of presumption or liberal interpretation to infer that the members of the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat aren't particularly fond of one another. There are no Christmas cards exchanged—merely hard fouls and frustrated shoves.
Yet while some will undoubtedly express their pleasure in the extension of a budding rivalry or celebrate the general animosity of this matchup (both of which should make for particularly compelling drama come the Eastern Conference Finals), I found joy in Thursday night's physical matchup for an entirely different reason: It gave focus to a Heat team that has wavered of late, and another carrot to hang over the head of those endlessly scrappy Bulls.
Both teams had experienced a slight letdown despite their proximity to the playoffs, and dogfights like this one have a way of energizing teams in a way that few things can.
The Bulls may not need this kind of animosity as much as the Heat do, but the actualization of their ECF collision course apparently banks on this kind of prelude.
Darren Collison: Drifting from View
The Indiana Pacers have rattled off seven consecutive wins, only one of which featured former starting point guard Darren Collison—and none of which featured Collison offering any meaningful contributions whatsoever.
No supposedly vital cog looks more dispensable at the moment, as Indiana has proven that its new and improved offense can keep its head well above water with George Hill running the show.
That may be for the best. Although some of Indiana's recent success could be misleading due to its soft schedule, it's good that the Pacers have a chance to acclimate themselves to playing without Collison.
According to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel is unsure that Collison will even be back in the lineup for the start of the playoffs, as his lingering groin injury has taken longer to heal than initially expected.
There's no reason to think that his absence could make any kind of remarkable difference in a potential first-round series against the Orlando Magic, but beyond that point, Collison may again prove essential—albeit in fewer minutes as a reserve.
Indiana's margin for error against the likes of Chicago or Miami will be painfully slim, and although Vogel may still be sorting through his rotational possibilities, even the slightest hindrance in Collison's gait could be reason enough to stick with the in-rhythm Hill for the bulk of the point guard minutes.
The Tall Shadow of Anthony Randolph
If anyone is remotely intrigued by one of Anthony Randolph's occasional box-score outbursts, save yourself the trouble.
We've been down this road. He's had ample opportunity. The excuses and justifications have worn thin, and although Randolph is as lanky and tantalizing as ever, we should know better by now.
The ship has sunk, and although that doesn't prevent it from someday being salvaged for marginal value, I'd say it effectively limits the capability for sailing.