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Crying game: Bulls bring Heat to tears after sweeping season series

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



After a loss to the Bulls on Sunday, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said “a couple of guys” were crying in the locker room.

For his sake, I hope it was the Big Three of the trainer, the ballboy and the physical therapist. If Spoelstra has players crying after a game in early March, I can’t imagine what he’s going to encounter in the locker room when the Bulls beat the Heat in the playoffs.

Actually, yes, I can. It will look like an audience that just finished watching “The Notebook.’’

There is nothing wrong with crying. Speaker of the House John Boehner is an inveterate crier. People cry on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” all the time.

But NBA players after a loss in March? Really?

If so, the Bulls can cross the Heat off their to-do list. Now, if they can only figure out what activates the Celtics’ sprinkler system.

But something doesn’t add up here. Grizzled pros + regular-season game = tears? I’m having a hard time buying it, but I’m having a harder time understanding why Spoelstra would make up such a thing. For what gain?

Well, if he wanted to take away from the Bulls’ 87-86 victory, mission partially accomplished. I just spent seven paragraphs trying to make sense of what happened after the game.

But nothing can erase the fact that the Bulls now have bigger things on their minds than Miami and its emotional state.

‘Champs’ has a nice ring to it

Instead of chanting “M-V-P, M-V-P’’ for Derrick Rose, maybe Bulls fans should start chanting “NBA Champs, NBA Champs’’ for their team.

That would have been considered delusional at the beginning of the season and wishful thinking a month or so later, but not anymore, not after the way the Bulls have handled themselves against the top teams in the league and especially not after the way they handled themselves Sunday in Miami.

You can probably come up with reasons why the Bulls won’t win an NBA title this year, but none of them will be debate-enders.

There’s no compelling reason they can’t do this crazy, previously unthinkable thing.

“We can play, man,’’ Rose said.

And that’s really the simple truth about this ridiculously hardworking team, isn’t it? Man, can these guys play.

The victory over the Heat said a lot of things, most of them having to do with the fact that the Bulls are the better squad. But it also reinforced the idea that you can’t throw three superstars together and expect them to run away with an NBA title.

There’s something comforting in that. It means that all the work Rose, Joakim Noah and the much-maligned Luol Deng put in together the last few years means something in terms of “team,’’ that underappreciated concept. It means that Carlos Boozer has done a great job of meshing his considerable talents with his new teammates’ skills.

Heat could have the wrong mix

And what about the three-headed monster of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? It’s called paying your dues together, and so far they haven’t had enough time to do it. Or — and this is the scary possibility for the Heat — perhaps their talents don’t blend well enough for a championship.

That certainly could induce early-onset tears.

What’s undeniable is that everything Miami does is watched carefully. People are constantly looking for stress fractures. The Bulls, on the other hand, have had the luxury of not living their lives on a microscope slide.

With the Bulls up by a point in the closing seconds Sunday, Noah hermetically attached himself to James, who drove to the basket and missed. The rebound went to Wade, who missed a shot from the corner. Keith Bogans rebounded the ball for the team that doesn’t boast a Big Three. Game over.

The Bulls, with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, have won nine of their last 11 games. The Heat has lost four in a row.

The Bulls are 8-4 against the top six teams in the NBA. The Heat is 1-9.

The Bulls have Derrick Rose. The Heat doesn’t.

You can’t teach the things that Rose does at the speed he does them. In the third quarter, he sliced through Wade and James for a sweet left-handed layup. Just to be clear: He wasn’t slicing through Steve Nash and Carmelo Anthony, who play defense like laundry on a clothesline.

Rose has something Wade doesn’t have — Chicago — and the guess here is that their rivalry is going to get nastier as time goes on. According to Slam magazine, when Rose hit a big shot over Wade at the United Center last month, he screamed, “This is my [house]!’’ What did he actually say in that parenthetical? Let’s put it this way: If the house had an address, it would be No. 2.

Wade and James couldn’t coax a victory when it counted Sunday. Wade had said beforehand that the two of them needed to do a better job of finishing off games. He was right, of course, but just because he knew that didn’t mean he’d be able to do it against the best defensive team in the NBA.

The Bulls frustrate opponents. They play hard almost all the time. They crash the boards. Wade and James spent the last eight minutes of the game griping about every call that didn’t go their way. The Bulls will do that to you.

As part of the league’s Hispanic marketing campaign, the Bulls wore “Los Bulls’’ jerseys Sunday, the Heat “El Heat’’ jerseys.

What’s Spanish for, “The Heat sure can bawl”?



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