Bulls

Bulls-Heat not just another game

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Bulls-Heat not just another game

MIAMI -- It's the biggest NBA game of the season! Its outcome will have implications that will be remembered in June!

For once, it's no exaggeration. Well, not completely.

Sunday's showdown between the Bulls and Heat is truly the NBA's most anticipated event of the season, at least thus far. But it's just another regular-season game.

Still, let's be honest: Chicago and Miami are the class of the East, and no disrespect to current league-best Oklahoma City -- or other West contenders, such as defending-champion Dallas, the two L.A. teams or even underrated Memphis -- but a game pitting the reigning MVP, Coach of the Year and what's regarded as the best defense in the business against the "Big Three" is as good as it gets for late January, especially in this lockout-shortened campaign. And Derrick Rose can downplay it, but all eyes will be on Biscayne Blvd. Sunday afternoon.

Since the last time the two squads faced off, in the Eastern Conference Finals, much of the personnel has stayed the same. However, the offseason moves made by the respective front offices have been impactful.

Role players were the Heat's focus, as veteran "three-and-D" specialist Shane Battier, rookie point guard Norris Cole and even former Bulls center Eddy Curry, a Chicago native, took their talents. Meanwhile, the Bulls opted for quality over quantity, acquiring Rip Hamilton to fill their void at shooting guard, the team's only addition since last season, now that the short stint of journeyman point guard Mike James, waived Saturday, is over.

While those moves will have some say in Sunday's result, a cursory analysis of the matchups and brief evaluation of the season to date reveals that many of the same questions from a year ago still exist. But whether LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can be simultaneously productive, Rose gets enough help from the highly-scrutinized big-man duo of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer or even if Luol Deng returns from torn ligaments in his left wrist is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

For the record, Bosh was playing some of the best basketball of his brief tenure in Miami prior to Wade, who looked remarkably spry in Friday night's Heat win over the reeling Knicks, returning from a sprained ankle. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, James' issues in the clutch haven't yet against Chicago. And while there will likely be plenty of focus on Rose's approach and how the Bulls' big men play following their various struggles last spring, perhaps a more important aspect of the game will be how effective the Bulls' perimeter players -- such as Hamilton, who, like Deng, is a game-time decision -- are when Miami's defense inevitably collapses on Rose.

Regardless of whether the two teams are prohibitive favorites to face off again at the same juncture where they met last postseason, keep in mind that the Bulls swept last year's regular-season series over the Heat before bowing out in five games in the conference finals, an indicator that, game of the season or not, maybe less significance should be placed on an early-January affair. But boy, won't it be fun to watch?

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.