If you’re an NBA fan, today is indeed Sunday Funday. Where do we go for Game of the Night on a day so loaded with big time matchups? In the evening we have three matchups between teams that are currently in the playoff picture (Portland at Houston, Indiana at Dallas, and Phoenix at Golden State). In the second game of ABC’s double header there is a realistic chance that the Oklahoma City Thunder could drop 150 points on the stalwart defense of the Los Angeles Lakers. But the Game of the Day pick goes to ABC’s first matchup of the day, which doubles as the most heated rivalry in the NBA. The Miami Heat head to the Windy City and will attempt to snap a two-game losing streak against the surging Chicago Bulls.
Just like on the 4th of July, you can count on a nice display of fireworks at some point when these two teams meet, no matter if it’s a postseason or regular season game. The Bulls and the Heat have met in playoffs two of the last three years and that has accounted for a history of aggravation between the two sides. It’s like clockwork: The Bulls will attempt to muck up the game and make things dirty and physical to counteract the advantages the Heat have in offensive playmaking… the Heat might get sucked into some of that extracurricular nonsense, and if they do, it favors Chicago. Don’t expect these tactics to change today.
The Bulls have won ten of their last thirteen games in large part because of the heart and soul of their team, Joakim Noah, who should be getting his name tossed around as a top five MVP candidate. Sure, he isn’t anywhere close to the skill level of LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but without Noah the Bulls would’ve folded after Derrick Rose went down. Without Noah the Bulls would’ve folded after Luol Deng was traded. Without Noah—a center—the Bulls offense wouldn’t be able to function and their defense wouldn’t be second in the league. Without Noah the Bulls wouldn’t be able to do their bully routine against the Miami Heat. He means more to the Bulls than anybody realizes.
The game might come down to whether or not the Heat show up and bring their A-game. The number one seed in the Eastern Conference is dangling in front of Miami thanks to the recent struggles of the Indiana Pacers, so don’t expect the Heat to be coasting for the next month. I wouldn’t be surprised if the squad overtakes Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings, but I don’t think they make a move today. I’ve got the Bulls continuing to roll, winning a close one at home.
The Pick: Chicago 93, Miami 90
National TV: ABC
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST