The Miami Heat are the best team in basketball, a carefully fashioned collective of talents centered around the shining beacon of athletic prowess that is LeBron James. The Chicago Bulls, at least on paper, are an inferior team in practically every tangible way, a beaten up bunch running on fumes.
And yet, here we are, entering Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a Nate Robinson-Marco Belinelli backcourt looming as a legitimate threat to Miami's title run. Trailing 1-0 following Sunday's stunning 93-86 Bulls win, the Heat are looking to avoid a legitimate deficit heading back to Chicago for Game 3.
In many ways, this situation is almost unimaginable. The Bulls weren't supposed to get this far, not after Derrick Rose decided an epiphany would be necessary to play again, Joakim Noah's feet stopped cooperating and Luol Deng found himself watching the end of Round 1 in a hospital.
But those guys don't define what makes Chicago so darn frustrating for other teams. It's the Robinsons, Belinellis and Jimmy Butlers of the world, the guys that pop out of the woodwork ready to buy into Tom Thibodeau's philosophy, that make the Bulls an impossible team to sleep on.
The Heat continue to learn that lesson first hand. Maybe they thought this series, with no Rose, a questionable Deng and a hobbled Noah, would finally be different from past matchups between the teams.
But as long as Thibodeau is around, the Bulls will always be relentless, passionate and determined to win. The Heat have matched this effort in the past, namely during the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, but they'll need to do it again and again, because one thing Thibs's team won't do is stop fighting.
With a pivotal Game 2 looming Wednesday night, here are three questions to ponder:
1. Chris Bosh, where art thou?
If you spent most of Game 1 completely forgetting that Bosh was on the Heat, all is forgiven. The guy just wasn't doing all that much out there, continuing what's been an utterly underwhelming postseason performance from the All-Star big man.
Coming off a nine-point, six-rebound outing in Sunday's series-opening loss, Bosh is averaging 12.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in this year's postseason. While he's reportedly been dealing with some leg soreness recently, Miami needs to get more out of its third-best player.
2. Can Chicago keep dominating the boards?
Though it improved during the season, one aspect of Miami's game that lacked was rebounding. The Heat were in the bottom 10 in rebounding rate during the regular season, per NBA.com, as they constantly played smaller lineups that push James to power forward and spread the floor.
In Game 1, the Bulls absolutely punished Miami for going small, putting up a 46-32 advantage on the boards. Noah and Butler combined for 25 rebounds as they bullied the Heat inside, embodying the aggressive play that's become a trademark of this team.
While the Bulls don't have many advantages on paper, rebounding is one of them. If Chicago is going to keep this series competitive going forward, the domination on the glass needs to continue.
3. What about Derrick Rose?
What about him? At this point, there's nothing new to learn about Rose's condition. The team doctors say he's perfectly healthy, Rose seems to think otherwise and there are enough reasons to doubt Chicago management that criticism feels misplaced at this point.
If Rose really cared what the doctors said to him, he'd probably be playing by now, but he's not, and there's little reason to believe anything is going to change. Nobody can really say for sure why the former MVP hasn't simply been shut down for the season yet, but it's easier to pretend like this actually happened.
For the next few weeks, this is essentially Nate Robinson's team.
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Odds: Heat are 13.5-point favorites, per OddsShark.