|Injuries have completely changed the look of the Bulls since November, but it hasn't stopped Chicago's winning as the Bulls steal game one from Miami Monday. (usatoday.com)|
A team defeated the Miami Heat in game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday. It looked like the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls only because of the red "Chicago" uniform donned by the players, but this isn't the same Bulls team that has played most of the season.
Forget about the injury bug, the Bulls look like they've been attacked by a swarm of injury-inducing bees. It was thought of as a surprise that Chicago made it out of the first round. Now, this team wearing those uniforms beat the best team in the league, in Miami, by seven points. No Derrick Rose, no Luol Deng, no Kirk Hinrich, and apparently no problem.
How bad have the injuries been? Just take a look at the box scores from Monday's game against Miami and the first game of the regular season against Sacramento on Oct. 31. Both Bulls teams scored 93 points and held the opponent to 86 and 87 points, respectfully, but it was a completely different squad getting the job done.
Only Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer remain from what was the starting lineup of the regular season opener. The rest is a cast of role players called upon to fill a void left by spinal taps and bruised calves. Credit these players, the Marco Belinelli's, Nate Robinson's and the Jimmy Butler's who are on the team to provide an extra boost off the bench when needed. They were needed more than ever and delivered once again, Butler with a double-double of 21 points and 14 rebounds, Robinson with a team high 27 points and Belinelli with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Credit is also due to Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls' front office for signing and developing these players for situations like these. No one would have faulted Thibodeau for being ousted in the first round with all the personnel problems he has had to deal with this season. No one also would have seen these injuries coming, which is why a team works so hard on it's roster in the offseason. Just in case.
The Bulls have talent, which is why if Rose and the other normal starters were healthy, many would consider Chicago the best chance to upset the Heat. But there is a reason an NBA team has 15 players on the roster. The superstars won't always be in the game, and the bench is often called on to keep the team alive.
Except for the uniforms, this is not the same Chicago Bulls team from the beginning of the year, but the role players have done more than expected and Wednesday a team wearing that Chicago jersey will face Miami with a 1-0 series lead.
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