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Game 22: Heat 97, Bulls 93

30 Jan 2012

Three Stars (leaderboard)
1. Derrick Rose: 34 points (.498 TS%), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
2. Joakim Noah: 11 points (.637 TS%), 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks
3. Ronnie Brewer: 10 points (.512 TS%), 6 rebounds, 3 steals

Twenty-four hours later, I’m still not sure whether to be encouraged or discouraged by Sunday’s narrow loss in Miami.

The Heat won the game, dominated significant stretches of it, and generally set the pace throughout. Chicago got little from anyone beyond Derrick Rose and an energized Joakim Noah, unless you give Ronnie Brewer credit for a game effort on the generally unstoppable LeBron James (35-11-5).

Yes, we’re looking at you again, Carlos. *Sigh*

Miami, the defending conference champs, were the team to beat before the weekend, and they remain the team to beat now.

But.

But!

Rose matched LeBron blow for blow, even if he faltered, like everyone on both teams, in the final minute. Somehow, the Bulls hung around the whole game, fighting off more than a few knockout punches — and they did it with their second-best player and top bench scorer sidelined and their starting shooting guard limping around again.

Give me healthy versions of Luol Deng, C.J. Watson and Rip Hamilton and we’ll see how things shake out next time.

Of course, a) full health and vigor is not guaranteed for any team in the playoffs, in this of all seasons; and b) this analysis ignores Dwyane Wade’s general absence this time as a true difference-maker. If you’re postulating full health for Deng & Co., don’t you have to assume Wade won’t drift around, Boozer-like, and shoot 4-for-16 next time, too?

Twenty-four hours later, I’m not still sure.

Box Score

Record: 17-5, first in the Eastern Conference
Next: Monday 1/30 at Washington, 6:00 CT

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