The Chicago Bulls know they can beat the Miami Heat without Derrick Rose. They might need to do it again without the reigning MVP and their other All-Star.
Regardless of who is in their lineup, the Bulls have a chance to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference if they can avoid a fourth consecutive road loss to the Heat on Thursday night.
Two nights after suffering a surprising 87-84 home loss to Washington without Rose (foot) and Luol Deng (ribs), Chicago (47-15) bounced back minus their All-Star duo to win 100-68 at Charlotte on Wednesday.
That victory came minutes before Miami (44-17) won its fourth straight game, 96-72 over Toronto. The Bulls have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Heat in the East, and a victory Thursday would secure Chicago the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the conference playoffs since they would hold the tiebreaker should the Heat match their record at season’s end.
“You try to put as many things in your favor as possible,” coach Tom Thibodeau told the Bulls’ official website. “Is (the No. 1 seed) a must? I always think if you can get it, you get it. If not, whatever your circumstances are you make the best of those circumstances.”
The Bulls’ current circumstances revolve around Rose, who has missed the last two games with his latest injury and 25 this season.
“Of course I would want to come back as soon as possible to get my rhythm going,” said Rose, who has watched his teammates go 17-8 without him. “My biggest thing is my heath now. Just getting me healthy I should be able to iron out the wrinkles.
“I would want to play as soon as possible. I miss the game.”