Heading into Thursday night’s rematch with the defending champs, little was expected of the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. The Bulls were on a 1-4 slump sans Rose and pitted against a Heat squad that had lost just four games all year.
In spite of the apparent mismatch, Chicago proved that there is life after Rose by putting a 107-87 beatdown on the Heat. This victory was buoyed largely by an enormous disparity on the glass: The Bulls out-rebounded their foes by a plus-22 margin.
Chicago’s bigs did most of the heavy lifting, as evidenced by Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah all managing at least 17 points. Noah also tallied a season high with 15 rebounds and was pivotal in the Bulls amassing a 24-6 advantage on second-chance points.
Backing up Chicago’s superb effort in the frontcourt was efficient shooting from beyond the arc. The Bulls went 10-19 from the three-point line, lead by seven such makes from Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich combined.
However, this offensive performance could’ve likely been for naught had Chicago’s defense not played so well. The Bulls held the Heat, who rarely fail to hit 100 points, to a season-low 87, yielding just six offensive boards.
Of course, this dominant performance was surprising, but perhaps not as much as many would have you think. Tom Thibodeau’s tenacious squad is used to playing without their star and proved that they could even excel under such circumstances last year.
Against quite possibly their fiercest present-day rival (not to mention the team that knocked them out of last year’s playoffs), it’s no surprise the Bulls came into this game as motivated as they did. It remains to be seen whether or not the Bulls can carry this momentum and go on a run, but in a less-than-stellar Eastern Conference, it’d be foolhardy to bet against them.
And while grit and determination can only carry a superstar-less team so far in today’s NBA, don’t tell that to these Bulls.