COMMENTARY | In the three seasons since Tom Thibodeau took over as coach of the Bulls and LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their services to Miami to play for the Heat, the Bulls have beaten the Heat five times in seven regular season games.
In two of those wins, the Bulls did not have their best player, Derrick Rose.
It happened again Friday when the Bulls stood up to both the Heat and the referees to record a very impressive 96-89 victory. It was Carlos Boozer with 27 points and 12 rebounds that helped lift the Bulls to victory, giving the Heat their third home loss of the season. Rose remained nothing more than a rumor for that game as he continued his rehabilitation from an ACL tear last spring.
Last season, the Bulls beat the Heat at home 106-102 without Derrick Rose. It was March 15, the Bulls were battling the Heat for the best record in the East, and the Heat let John Lucas III (not the first or second John Lucas, but the third), score 24 points. The Bulls bench outscored the Heat bench 56-15.
In the first season of the new NBA, which was born when James made his "'South Beach' announcement, the Bulls beat the Heat all three times they met, all with Rose on hand. After the March 6, 2011 win in Miami, a demonstrable 87-86 victory, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters that some Miami players were tearing up because they could not find a way to beat the Bulls.
This has to mean something, doesn't it? Is it good versus evil, or David beating Goliath? Or are the Bulls the better team?
What Miami fans or Bulls haters or fact-ologists will tell you is that when the games mattered most, as they did in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, Miami dispatched the Bulls with relative ease, four games to one. That is true. That has to mean something, too.
Here's what it all means to me: If Derrick Rose comes back 100 percent healthy in late February or early March, and is hopefully a bit smarter about when to test his physical abilities, the Bulls and Heat will meet again in a playoff series, when the games really matter. I suspect, in those games, the Bulls will be a better test against the Heat than they were in 2011.
In Friday's game, as in all the Bulls-Heat matchups, the Bulls had a 48-28 rebounding advantage. Bosh said the Bulls were bigger than they are, although Miami is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. The reason Miami overcomes that deficit most games is that they block shots, make open court steals, and shoot really well. Against the Bulls defense, it's sometimes harder to get off the shots they want.
"It's a great win for us,'' Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "We just pounded the glass [48-28 advantage]. It was a great team effort, and we needed it. I know what's going to happen. [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] is going to get them hyped for the next game because we kicked their butt on the glass. They're going to try to make it a physical game, and that's cool.''
But don't you think the Heat wanted to "kick their butt'' after losing the first game of 2010-11, or the second game of 2010-11?
Don't you think they wanted to "kick their butt'' after getting beat by John Lucas in March 2012? They played again a month later with Rose in the game, and the Bulls won in overtime when Rose scored exactly two points in the game. Don't you think the Heat wanted to win that game?
The Bulls and Heat meet three more times in the regular season. The next meeting is in Chicago Feb. 21. There is not much chance Rose will come back for that game, not that it seems to matter.
That will probably be one of the biggest games of the February NBA schedule.
Who do you think will win?
Kent McDill has covered the Bulls for three different companies: for United Press International from 1985-88, for the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., from 1988-99 and currently for NBA.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title "100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die'' published by Triumph Books.