Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 3/14/12
When Chicago and Miami get together, somebody might cry. That's a pretty intense rivalry. After a tough loss last season to the Bulls, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said some of his distraught players were crying in the locker room. After a loss earlier this season in which he missed two key late free throws, Bulls guard Derrick Rose took it hard, with some suggesting there were tears. So while Boston against the Lakers used to be the NBA's most anticipated rivalry, now it's not even the biggest game this week. While those veteran outfits did put together a scintillating game Sunday, eyes in the league are more on Wednesday's round two this season between growing rivals Chicago and Miami. The Bulls (35-9) and the Heat (31-10) have the two best records in the East. They would have had the two best marks in the entire NBA had Miami not stumbled 104-98 in overtime Tuesday at Orlando. After that game, Magic center Dwight Howard said he's told team officials he doesn't want to be traded by Thursday's deadline. With the likelihood having decreased that Howard will be moved, that puts even more attention on Wednesday's game at the United Center. Suddenly, the game has become more important to the Heat than to the Bulls. If Miami loses, it will drop 3 games behind Chicago for the top record in the East. Heat players, namely Chris Bosh, have been saying all season how important it is to get the No. 1 seed. Talk about the Heat being in a crummy position. They have to play this big game on the second night of a back-to-back situation while the Bulls rested Tuesday. "I'd like to get a day off," Heat guard Dwyane Wade had said before the Magic game about the Chicago scenario, later adding, "It's unfortunate that we have to face them that way." Wade said that before the Heat were forced into overtime against the Magic, making them candidates to perhaps be even more weary against the Bulls. Then again, this is the same Miami outfit that last month became just the second team in NBA history to win three games in three nights, with all on the road and all by double digits. It remains to be seen what the Heat can muster Wednesday. But Rose figures they're "going to be charged" as this rivalry continues to blossom between the two teams that figure to be the best in the East well into this decade. Chicago went 3-0 against the Heat during the regular season last year. That included an 87-86 win March 6, after which Spoelstra made the comment that led to the drama of "Crygate." Then came the Eastern Conference finals last season between the teams. Bosh said it motivated him that Bulls forward Carlos Boozer had referred to the Heat as having two great players in LeBron James and Wade while leaving out Bosh. The Bulls won Game 1 before the Heat took the next four. Tack on a 97-93 home win over Chicago on Jan. 29, and Miami has a five-game winning streak in the series. "Everybody knows that (Wednesday) is a big game and we're all excited," said center Joakim Noah, whose Bulls have two more regular-season games after that with the Heat. "They have a lot of great players on that team. Miami's the team that went to the Finals, that eliminated us last year. So you want to set the tone," James set the tone in the last meeting. Due to the Miami marathon tangling up traffic, he rode his bike to the game. Then he did laps around the Bulls, totaling 35 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. James also was dominant in the final four games of the Eastern final against Chicago, averaging 28.5 points. But he has great respect for the Bulls. "I look at that team as one of the best that we have in the NBA," James said. "Coach (Tom Thibodeau), of course, they got the reigning MVP (Rose) and those guys all buy into the system. They got a great defense and they got a great team. Every night, you know what you get out of the Chicago Bulls." Well, last time there was something unexpected out of the Bulls. Rose, who at the time had made 29 free throws on the season in the fourth quarter, cinderblocked a pair with 22.7 seconds and the Bulls down by one. Rose was extremely down after the game. But now he's got a shot for revenge. "They're coming in here, they beat us last time," Rose said. "They're a good team, playing good right now. It's going to be a battle." Rose is expected to play despite sitting out practice Tuesday due to Thibodeau calling him "nicked up." And forward Luol Deng should return after having missed the last two Chicago games due to a wrist injury. Deng, a perimeter defensive specialist who could have come in handy against James, sat out the last time the Bulls played the Heat because of a similar wrist problem. About 1 weeks after that, Deng was named to join Rose on the All-Star team. So, throw in the big three of James, Wade and Bosh, and all of the All-Stars should be available Wednesday. Also, add Thibodeau, who was the East coach. It would figure Thibodeau at last month's All-Star Game played Wade 33 minutes, James 32 and Bosh 20 while using Rose and Deng just 18 and six, respectively. Thibodeau said he had asked players beforehand how much they wanted to be used, and Wade joked afterward about his heavy minutes. But you've got to figure Thibodeau doesn't mind getting any edge he can. After all, it is a rivalry in which tears might flow. Chris Tomasson can be reached a christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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