The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls entered the NBA Playoffs as the two best teams in the East by record, and in the NBA by point differential. The Bulls could easily have seen the Heat as the biggest hurdle on the way to a seventh NBA Championship; with the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics out of the way, there's really no question. (No offense to the Dallas Mavericks, of course.)
For the Heat, it's always been about the Celtics and the Bulls. Boston went down in five. Will Chicago be so easy?
That's highly unlikely; the Bulls didn't finish with the NBA's best record by luck or fluke. This is a great team with a legendary defense and one hell of a creator in Derrick Rose. What the team lacks in star power beyond Rose, it makes up for in depth; Chicago has a legit eight starting-level players, four of whom come off the bench for Tom Thibodeau. Miami? Outside of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, just about no one on that roster would start for any other playoff team.
That's one of the myriad on-court storylines as the series tips off on Sunday with Game 1 (8 p.m. ET, TNT). There's also plenty of off-court narrative to address, not the least of which is LeBron's reputation in comparison with the man who replaced him as MVP, Rose.
Be sure to check out our Heat vs. Bulls hub for series previews, predictions and more. For more on the Bulls, visit Blog a Bull and SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier.