The Miami Heat, current co-owners of the top spot in the Eastern Conference at 42-15, come to the City of Big Shoulders to battle first-year head man Tom Thibodeau’s 38-17 Bulls and their do-everything floor-leader, All-Star starting PG Derrick Rose. On Tuesday Chicago traded forward James Johnson to Toronto for a 2011 first-round draft pick. But neither of tonight’s contestants got swept up in the dizzying whirlwind of deadline day trades, so their already-good-enough-to contend rosters remain in tact.
Reigning two-time NBA MVP LeBron James and the Heatles are 9-1 over their last 10 contests, including the destruction of the Sacramento Kings 117-97 on Tuesday night in South Florida when they showed no fatigue, mental or physical, after the Riley triumvirate’s trip to LA’s eventful All-Star weekend.
Chicago currently ranks third in David Stern’s league in points allowed at 92.9. With the return of 6’11” C Joakim Noah last night in Toronto, after a 30-game absence due to surgery for ligament damage in his right thumb, expect the Bulls defense to get even stingier. With their fourth-year, 21st century Big, the tentacle-y and rangy Noah, prowling the paint and extending into the wings and passing lanes again, the Bulls are gearing up for the last third of this 2010-11 NBA season and an anticipated powerful, memorable playoff run come the end of April.
A week ago exactly, MVP-candidate Rose had a magnificent game, scoring a career-high 42 points as Chicago beat the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs at The United Center in a marquee Inter-conference matchup. The Bulls are 25-4 at home so far this season and haven’t lost in front of the ‘Paris on the Prarie’ crowd since January 18th.
In fact, three days before that last home L, host Chicago beat the Heat 99-96 in the only game these two Eastern Conference heavyweights have played this season so far. However, King James was out for that rumble and former two-time NCAA Champ Florida Gator and French National Teamer Noah was in street clothes as well.
The Bulls lost last night to the Raptors on the road 118-113 in what Coach Tibs called a “defensive disaster.” Noah played and was a bit rusty, but still managed to grab 16 boards (9 of them offensive) in 24 minutes of burn.
Back on protected black and red ground this evening, Chicago’s now healthy big 3 of Rose, Boozer and Noah will attempt to take another meaningful step forward in the direction of the league’s elite by stopping Miami’s intensely-globally-analyzed big 3 of James, Bosh and the South Side’s hometown hero D-Wade.
The lights will certainly be bright tonight on Chicago’s Madison Street as the two top candidates for league MVP lead their teams into a hoopla of hardwood hand-to-hand. The Bulls and the Heat are set to square off at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.