Sunday's Bulls-Miami game was billed as a statement game.
For the Heat, a win would serve as their proclamation that they are the team to beat in the NBA. For the Bulls, a win would be an "I-told-you-so" to the critics who've said they can't beat the Heat. A loss for either would label them as also-rans.
As it turns out, there might never have been a bigger, more thrilling game that said so little about the teams involved.
The Heat's 97-93 victory might have Miami fans beating their chests and some Bulls fans wringing their hands, but neither side should draw too many conclusions from the teams' first meeting of the season. Especially, the Bulls. Consider the following.
Like Miami during the regular season in 2010-11, the Bulls are missing significant pieces of their team. Most important, starter Luol Deng, who guarded LeBron James admirably last season. Deng, out with a torn ligament in his left wrist, has been called the "glue" of this team by coach Tom Thibodeau, and it's easy to see why. The Bulls offense simply does not flow smoothly without the versatile Deng on the court, and his 16 points and eight rebounds per game are not easy to replace.
This NBA season is already demanding, packing 66 games into four and a half months, but the Bulls have been worked harder than every other team. It's a fact. After Sunday's game in Miami, the Bulls have played one more game than several NBA teams and two or more games than most NBA teams.
The Bench Mob, a group of players the Bulls can rely on to play to the level of the starters, was a shell of itself Sunday. With Ronnie Brewer in the starting lineup in place of Deng and C.J. Watson a late scratch because of a wrist injury, the Bulls simply had few quality options off the bench. John Lucas III was called on when Derrick Rose was in foul trouble, and he was promptly posterized by James.
Kept it close
Despite all that was working against the Bulls, they had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Rose's jumper in the lane fell short. Wait till next time ...