The Heat seemed so vulnerable at times this postseason. They lost a Game 1 at home against an undermanned Bulls team. They were taken to a Game 7 by the upstart Pacers. They were down 3-2 after five games against the Spurs.
And yet, the Heat sit at the top of the mountain again after edging the Spurs in a phenomenal seven-game series that provided as much drama as we could ask for the last two games. Miami was on the brink of death in Game 6, but great teams find ways to overcome adversity, and they did just that.
Much credit obviously goes to LeBron James, who put forth a spectacular effort in Game 7 with 37 points and 12 rebounds. I know he's hated around these parts, and some of his actions on the court make him easy to dislike, but it's hard for me not to appreciate the greatness. The comparisons to M.J. need to stop, but LeBron is well on his way to becoming perhaps the second best player of all-time.
It's tough watching the Heat bring home the title for a second straight season, especially considering what could have been with Derrick Rose. I'm not going to sit here and say the Bulls would've beat the Heat either of these past two years if Rose were healthy, but it's a shame that we didn't get to see them try.
Miami is now on the verge of a dynasty, with a three-peat in their sights next season. Based on some of their struggles (and especially Dwyane Wade's) in this year's postseason, it would be easy to say it's not going to happen, but LeBron is still there. And as long as he's there, the Heat will be the favorites.
So can the Bulls stop the three-peat if the two teams face each other in the postseason again? I would like to think they have a chance. Rose's health is obviously a huge factor, but I've stated on multiple occasions that I believe he'll be just fine going forward. Rose still has to prove that he can get things done down the stretch against LeBron, and that will certainly be a tough task. But it's not like it's out of the realm of possibility.
We saw the Heat have some issues against Roy Hibbert, David West and Tim Duncan, so Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson have to play better for the Bulls to win. And specifically, they need to be more consistent offensive threats.
The Jimmy Butler thing could be a huge factor, as we saw a slightly better version of Jimmy in Kawhi Leonard have a lot of success in the Finals. Butler played pretty doggone well in the Heat series, but Leonard was even better, averaging a double-double and also playing stellar defense on LeBron. If Butler can continue to improve his game and be our Kawhi, that makes the Bulls even more dangerous.
Then there's the shooting. Danny Green fizzled in Games 6 and 7, but his hot shooting was key throughout much of the series. As was Gary Neal's. With Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli likely gone, the Bulls need to find some shooters to help space the floor with Rose back. I really can't stress how important this is. THE BULLS NEED MORE SHOOTING!
When it comes down to it, I almost certainly wouldn't bet on the Bulls if they were to face the Heat in a playoff series next year (assuming mostly good health). LeBron will still be LeBron and he's the best damn player on the planet. However, the Bulls have the defense to frustrate Miami. The key is putting the ball in the basket more. Much easier said than done of course, because we have seen the Bulls really struggle in that department, especially down the stretch. But again, it's not like it's impossible. Anything is possible.
Derrick Rose comes back October 12.