Sure, the Heat must have been mentally and physically exhausted by the taxing nature of the streak. Sure, the Bulls were extra pumped at home. Regardless of the excuses we can make, one thing is certain: This Bulls victory was no fluke.
There are three main reasons why the Bulls may be the only team that can contend with the Heat over the course of a long, seven-game series: rebounding, defense and depth.
The Bulls (43 team rebounds) dominated the Heat (31 rebounds) on the glass tonight, and that was without starting center Joakim Noah, one of the premier two-way rebounders in the NBA. Chicago has excellent rebounders relative to their positions, including Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng.
Defensively, the Bulls are likely the only team that can match the Heat's athleticism, determination, aggressiveness and collective IQ. They have the necessary personnel, and a phenomenal defensive coach in Tom Thibodeau.
Then there's Chicago's depth. Kirk Hinrich has been his steady self at the point guard position, followed by Nate Robinson who can explode offensively on any given night. There's also that decent injured guy, Derrick Rose.
At shooting guard they have Butler (who also plays small forward), Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton, all rotation players on most rosters. Butler has been a particularly great find by Chicago's front office.
In the frontcourt they have Noah, Boozer, Gibson and Deng—hard for any team to match that foursome.
In the end, do I think the Bulls will beat the Heat if they meet in the postseason?
But if there's one thing we learned tonight, it's that you cannot sleep on this tough, talented, relentless Chicago Bulls team.