Say what you will about the Bulls' struggles on the offensive end, but there is not a team in the league that wants to face Chicago's defense late in the game needing to score.
Once again, the hallmark of Tom Thibodeau's Chicago Bulls (43-18) was the difference as he put Joakim Noah on Lebron James for the game's final possession. The unorthodox move paid off as Noah altered James' shot, and a desperation heave by Dwayne Wade could not keep the Bulls from their most emotional win of the season.
After taking over for six straight points with about 4 minutes left, Derrick Rose committed two costly turnovers that allowed the Heat to retake the lead. On the road in a hostile environment, against two of the NBA's uber-stars, it seemed the game was leaning in the Heat's favor. But the Bulls, who seem to have a different guy step up every night, pulled together and pulled out an incredible win.
Rose bounced back from two straight sub-par performances with 27 points and 5 assists, although he still has not overcome his 3-point shooting slump. He is now 0 for his last 19 from distance. Luol Deng (18 points, 2 blocks) continues to be Chicago's rock at both ends of the court. Deng's huge defensive stops and key baskets buoyed Chicago throughout the game, including three crucial free throws that gave the Bulls their final lead. Rose was upset with himself after the game for letting the Heat retake the lead, but gave praise to his teammates for picking him up on the way to a huge victory.
At the end of a 5-game road trip, against one of the league's best teams, the Bulls ability and fortitude at this point should be considered nothing short of exceptional. Noah went so far as to call his team, "grimy", which seems as apt a word as any for this Chicago team. By sweeping the season series with the Heat, by rising to the top of the ranks in the East, the Bulls have announced to the rest of the league that they are ready to contend for a title, right now.
The Bulls return home to face the New Orleans Hornets Monday night at 7 p.m. CST.