Not the most obvious memory that should come to mind, but last night I was reminded of how I felt after the Skiles' Bulls were ousted in the 2nd round in 2007. Not only was it literally a round short of the Eastern Conference Finals, but there was a sense that those Bulls were simply a class below. It feels great to see them now not only make it this far, but feel like they belong, and can go farther.
But considering the stakes and storylines in this series, it's a surprisingly quick turnaround (and on a weekend, which as you know isn't my strong suit). Luckily, the internet has done more than enough previewing already, so I can just bullet-point at what you can point-and-click.
- A story I had not covered in my game six recap was the perseverance from Luol Deng in battling through injury after a scary fall in the first quarter. I haven't heard anything suggesting he wasn't going to be fine for Sunday, but wanted to relay this tale from Sam Smith's wrap:
Across the locker room, Deng sat with his feet in a bucket of ice, his post game companion. His elbow was wrapped thickly as he'd taken another hard fall, blasted down by Josh Smith on a drive. He stayed down a bit late in the first, but got up and made one of two free throws somewhat unsteadily for a 20-11 lead. Though later with the Bulls pulling away Deng came over a screen losing Smith on a curl, his favorite play. Johnson stepped up, but Deng, of all guys, double pumped and seemed to hang and then finished the 13 footer for the 54-41 lead. When I ran into him after the game, the first thing Hawks president Rick Sund said to me about plays the Bulls were making was Deng's hanging jumper.
Deng's back was still bad and now his finger was wrapped, too, from the fall. More questioned than any Bull, with the team the longest, Deng hasn't missed a game all season and in a rare game for him played fewer than 40 minutes. About 30 seconds fewer.
- Sam's recap also, of course, hams it up with tales of grit and grime and lunchpails/hardhats/bootstraps. This ESPN piece has more about underdog status and the Bulls being a TEAM (whatever that really means), walking the line of the Bulls saying they're confident, but don't mind being underdogs either. I don't doubt that this will be the first time in the playoffs that they're actually underdogs. I'm not sure it's necessarily a good thing to be, but if it helps the Bulls keep motivated, then, whatever.
- And if you doubt the Bulls are indeed underdogs, some keys to the series from ProBasketballTalk and Bulls Confidential. Read it all.
- Great breakdown from SI's Zach Lowe, emphasizing matchups, what the Heat like to do to create mismatches, and how the Bulls can respond.
- Video breakdowns from familiar names: Sebastian Pruiti (on the Bulls pick/roll), and Coach Nick.
- Here's the NBATV crew with a quick breakdown of the series. My favorite part may be the beginning where they show the infamous Spoelstra press conference from March saying his team had some locker room tears. Tom Haberstroh is correct that those games don't mean much now, but don't let that buzzkill your drinking of sweet sweet Heat tears.
- Not news to us, but anything that props up Omer Asik (outside of false lad-blog rumors, I guess) is worth linking to.
- Coach Thibodeau was on the Dan Patrick show, as gregarious and hoarse as ever.
- And a special link back to the mothership, here's Andrew Sharp on the pretty awful NBA Playoff season commercials.
- And in the spirit of brotherly (site) love, Peninsula is Mightier is your go-to Heatles community. For more Heat perspective, there's also The Heat Index, Hot Hot Hoops, and Ira Winderman.