Emerging Storylines to Watch in Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls Series
LeBron James and Joakim Noah aren't going to be having sleepovers anytime soon. And the only thing Dwyane Wade and Marco Belinelli are going to be doing after this series is over is playing dodgeball with basketballs like they did in Game 2.
What started off as just another second-round playoff series has progressed into a heated, contested and overly physical battle between two teams that don't seem to even have mutual respect for each other.
While the Heat are currently leading the series, the Bulls aren't ready to just give up and admit defeat.
The Bulls are showing their fight by actually fighting, though, and that's really giving the Heat the advantage in this second-round series.
As the series continues to heat up, so do the storylines, beginning with the dichotomy between the Heat's composure and the Bulls' "out-of-control" play.
Disciplined vs. Out-of-Control Play
In the first three games of the series, the Bulls racked up a whopping 10 technical fouls. The Heat have committed just four techs.
Sure, you could argue that the disparity in technical fouls has been the fault of the referees—well, mainly veteran ref Joey Crawford. But in reality, the Heat are just doing a much better job of keeping their composure.
Whether it's playoff experience or just the maturity from years of experience on their roster, there's no way around the fact that the Heat simply play with more composure.
When Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson explode and get ejected thanks to their not-so-loving words for the refs, guys like LeBron and Wade respond by walking away or intelligently arguing with the refs.
Even Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is resorting to bashing the Heat, which is an interesting way to lead his team.
That is the difference between a team that's ready to repeat as NBA champs and a team that doesn't have an identity without their superstar player leading the way.
#TheReturn of Derrick Rose
Speaking of the Bulls' lack of identity and discipline—their leadership is sitting on the bench in polished suits, keeping fans on the edge of their seats awaiting his return.
Derrick Rose is the Bulls' identity, and a major storyline in this series is whether Rose will return to the court before it's too late.
OK, that might be an exaggeration, but the Bulls certainly could use Rose. Right now they're relying on guys like Nate Robinson, Carlos Boozer and Marco Belinelli to lead the team, and they aren't composed enough to do that.
Rose is a humble leader who lets his play pave a path to success, and that's what the Bulls need to fuel their playoff push.
Rose has to return at some point, whether it's this year or next, and what better stage for him to make his return than in a playoff series in which his team is starting to lose its identity?
The Rising Leadership of LeBron James
Ever since LeBron won his first NBA title, his ability to lead the Heat has risen to another level.
There have been very few moments when LeBron has lost his cool, and when he did it had a very clear purpose—like when he ran through Carlos Boozer and picked up his first flagrant foul in quite some time.
LeBron doesn't allow his opponents to get under his skin. If there was ever any question about that, he answered it when he looked like he couldn't have cared less that Nazr Mohammed gave him a WWE-style push to the hardwood.
There are a number of players, even superstars, who would've responded to that situation with a hard foul on the other end. But LeBron simply kept playing the game as if nothing happened, and that spoke louder than any hard foul or any words ever could have.
Leadership is becoming one of LeBron's most valuable traits, and it's at the foundation of the Heat's continued success.
LeBron's ability to lead his team will continue to be a major storyline throughout this series because he's entering the "unflappable" realm in terms of his own mental strength and ability to lead.
This series will obviously be won on the court, but the most important aspect of it will be won in the minds of the players.
Maturity, discipline and composure are going to be the difference between who heads to the Eastern Conference Finals and who watches them from home.
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