Derrick Rose and LeBron James were predicted to meet up again in the Eastern Conference Finals for a repeat that was speculated to end much differently than the 4-1 ECF series that Miami ran away with after a Game 1 victory by the Chicago Bulls.
In this matchup, Rose was supposed to come up much bigger than he ever has, because much like LeBron’s elongated journey in the playoffs, Rose’s influence on the Bulls was being questioned.
The Bulls proved how fine of a squad they are without him, therefore perpetuating the false reality that Chicago’s NBA franchise didn’t really need him anyway. Rose was stepping into this year’s playoffs with something to prove as well, something that he and NBA fans have been cheated out of after another hard hit to Chicago’s championship dreams.
With Rose’s athleticism, agility and raw skill out of the way, the playoffs picture is looking a bit clearer for the probable regular season MVP.
James is cleared for takeoff.
The manner in which LeBron led Miami, scoring 32 PTS in only three quarters, as he sat out the entire fourth, was mind-boggling to say the least. He attacked the Knicks on all cylinders and was offensively and defensively marvelous.
Yet, with praise comes a renewed microscope on how he and the Miami Heat finish off the 2012 NBA Playoffs. There are no pesky distractions to relinquish LeBron of his responsibilities this postseason.
There is no one who can stop James, as long as he plays to his potential night in and out. The only man standing in James’ way is James himself and this creates an entirely different dynamic for the Miami Heat to barrel through.
The battle has become more mental than physical at this point. After blowing out the Knicks in a 100-67 victory, the Heat have a target on their backs. We have seen how they can secure a win behind LeBron’s leadership, and with another superstar knocked out of the race, fans will only expect that much more from James through every series.
Rose’s absence pushes James to the forefront and he needs to handle the heightened pressure with all the charisma we’ve seen with the elevation of his game as of late. There is no one to take the attention off of Miami as Chicago was the finest competition placed in Miami’s way of being repeated Eastern Conference champions.
The Bulls’ deep bench coupled with the teamwork and offensive efficiency of their starters and Derrick Rose leading the charge, Chicago was going to be Miami’s toughest feat.
If the Heat do not make it to the 2012 NBA Finals, the criticism will be at an unbearable high, especially for LeBron. Rose has forced this year’s playoffs to be now or never.
For Miami’s sake, LeBron won’t fail. For the Big 3’s sake, LeBron won’t fail.