Chicago Bulls: Time to Turn Down the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals

Ed LeiserCorrespondent IMay 13, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 12:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls reacts after drawing a foul from the Atlanta Hawks with Joakim Noah #13, Carlos Boozer #5 and Keith Bogans #6 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Phillips Arena on May 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sunday can't get here soon enough.

After dismissing the pesky Atlanta Hawks, the Chicago Bulls will join the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals—Chicago's first conference finals appearance since 1997-98.

The series every Bulls fan has wanted since "The Decision" last July is finally here.

The stakes couldn't be higher. The story lines couldn't be better.

How about the hometown hero, Derrick Rose, rising from the Englewood neighborhood to become the NBA's Most Valuable Player?

How about Dwyane Wade, a Robbins, Ill., product who attended high school on the southwest side in Oak Lawn?

Even seldom-used Heat forward Juwan Howard has Chicago roots (Howard played high school ball at Chicago Vocational School on the south side).

The biggest storyline is the "Big Three" (which is more like two-and-a-half-men) of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh—think Bulls fans forgot how these three spurned a chance to play in Chicago this past summer?

Chicago fans hold grudges for their entire lifetime. The Big Three will not be shown any mercy from Bulls fans over the next three weeks.

But for Rose and Wade, what more can they ask for?  A chance to take their team to the NBA Finals in front of friends and family in the House that Jordan Built—these opportunities don't come around very often.

Speaking of Rose, who is currently re-modeling the House that Jordan Built, he gets a chance to back up his MVP campaign (if he hasn't already done so).

Better yet, he can do it against a former MVP in James.

James has played terrific this postseason (26 points-per-game and almost 10 rebounds-per-game). 

He can do things on the court that no one else on the planet can do, and he's been in this situation before.

So has Wade.

The James/Wade duo is deadly, and there is no denying the one-two punch can easily take over this series, or any other for that matter.

Enter the Chicago Bulls.

They won't win any beauty contests—but neither will the Miami Heat, and I'm not talking about the fact that Chris Bosh looks like a dinosaur.

The Heat, don't forget, struggled mightily at times this season.

It doesn't mean much now, but they had three significant multiple-game losing streaks in the regular season (two four-game losing streaks and a five-game losing streak).

The Bulls never lost more than two in a row.

In fact, there was only one instance this season where the Bulls even lost four of seven games in any given stretch.

They won't blow anyone away with their offensive firepower, but they more than make up for it with defensive awareness, tenacity on the glass and a deep, balanced bench.

The question is this: can three players beat 10?

The Heat boast the best threesome of anyone in the league, but the Bulls likely hold the best 10-man squad.

Which would you rather have?

Miami is the favorite, and why not?

They have two sure-fire Hall of Famers in James and Wade, and for as much grief as Bosh sometimes gets, don't forget he's a six-time All-Star.  He can play.

The Heat flexed their muscle against the Boston Celtics while the Bulls struggled at times putting away a less-talented Atlanta Hawks team, but you can throw everything out the window at this point.

It's about who can win four games out of the next seven.

It's the biggest challenge for both teams.

Miami is expected to win NBA championships.  They threw a New Year's Eve-caliber party this past summer before the regular season had even begun in anticipation of winning an NBA title.

The Bulls' challenge is just as great.

They now have, whether they like it or not, the fate of the entire NBA world on their shoulders.

No one wants to see the Miami Heat win an NBA title this season.

Derrick Rose and friends will have every city in America outside of Miami on their side for this series.

No pressure, not for a third-year superstar MVP point guard.

Derrick Rose. Dwyane Wade. LeBron James.

In a league of "haves" vs. "have nots," both teams have a lot.  An awful lot.

The freakish heat Chicago experienced over the last three days is supposed to go down, to a more normal 55 degrees or so this weekend.

Let's hope that means the other Heat is also going down.