The Bulls reward for winning game seven? One day off, and a game one match against the well rested Miami Heat in Miami. No one ever said it'd be easy.
So here's the thing, there's no rational reason to pick the Bulls to win even a game in this series. Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich are likely out for at least game one, and it wouldn't surprise me if both miss the whole series. Miami is an absolutely elite NBA talent, one of the best teams in the history of the league.
Chicago? Well, we'll be relying on Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson for offensive firepower instead of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
The Bulls want this series badly. They'll play possession by possession. They'll hustle, work, bang, fight, and scrap for every second against the Heat. In the regular season, that might be enough to steal a couple games. In the post season? Chicago's fighting an uphill battle.
A fully healthy Bulls team with Derrick Rose playing at his peak would be underdogs against this group. A team without Rose has virtually no chance. A team without Rose, Hinrich, and Deng should hope to simply not get embarrassed.
The Bulls overachieved by a million to beat the Nets in the first round, but as presently constructed with the present injuries, this Bulls squad should offer little more resistance to the Heat than the Bucks.
That's what should happen. What should happen is a 4-0 sweep with the Bulls losing by 20 points a game.
The funny thing about sports is that what should happen sometimes doesn't. Make no mistake, I think the Bulls have no shot at beating the Heat in the series (less than 1% chance), and I doubt any NBA pundits disagree with me. I'll be impressed if they can take a game. Shocked if they can take two.
However, I know this. No one in that Bulls locker room agrees with me.
No one in that locker room doubts they can win.
That locker room is filled with irrational confidence. Irrational belief. More will and more heart than I'll ever have about anything. The players in that locker room will come out fighting like animal protecting its young. The players in that locker room make me proud to be a fan.
In a seven game series against Brooklyn, they left it all on the floor, sweat, blood, and puke. They lost player after player, played through injury and illness. They never doubted, never wavered, and they came out triumphant. They'll be carrying that attitude into Miami.
I doubt the Heat want it as bad as Chicago. I don't think they have as much heart. However, they aren't the cowardly lion Nets either. They'll be dialed in. They know what it takes to win a title, and they have the offensive and defensive power to crush anyone in their paths.
Game one is tonight. Can Chicago shock the world and smack the Heat in the mouth? I doubt it, but this team has a habit of rising to the occasion, a habit of proving me wrong, and a habit of doing what people say they can't. My brain says they have no shot, no chance, annihilation coming.
My heart can't close the door on them though. My heart will never doubt this team's will again.