Bulls look like they know how to be validated

Updated 5/15/2011 11:00 PM

Being a Chicago sports fan means that every arena is haunted by past failures.

So a troubling thought nagged at the psyche during the days leading to Game 1 of the Bulls-Heat series.


What might that be? Well, the Bulls' season has run uncomfortably parallel to the Bears' season.

Not much was expected of either team each surprised by running away with a division title each entered the postseason with much to prove each won its initial playoff round against a sub-.500 team

A victory away from the Super Bowl, the Packers exposed the Bears as championship pretenders. Now the Bulls are a series away from the NBA Finals and will have to beat Miami to validate their season.

Sunday night was a giant leap in that direction as the Bulls destroyed the Heat in the second half for a 103-82 victory to open the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

The Bulls went 3-0 against Miami during the regular season. If that didn't convince them how vulnerable the Heat is, this night should have.

While dominating Miami in a manner the Bears never did the Packers, the Bulls looked like a team insulted by being perceived as underdogs to the Heat.

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The Bulls can be encouraged not only by the victory but by the impression that the Heat can look like men dominating boys one minute and the next minute play as dumb as a box of Hawks.

(Just to be clear, that's Atlanta Hawks and not Chicago Blackhawks.)

Anyway, on this night the Heat looked as bad as a team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on its roster can look.

The Heat will make steals, score in transition, make tough shots, take big leads and then suddenly morph into a team that dribbles into traffic, takes bad shots, blows layups, commits dumb fouls and overall is as sloppy as a 3-year-old with an ice cream cone.

The Bulls have advantages over the Heat -- rebounding, depth, perhaps coaching -- and exploited all of them. A reserve, power forward Taj Gibson, went as far as to posterize Wade with a dunk.


Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau went to his bench as usual to start the second quarter and the subs held their own against some of the world's most fabled basketball players.

"Our bench has been great all year," Thibodeau said. "You can count on their energy and effort every night."

The Bulls' customary defense, starters and reserves alike, especially Luol Deng, limited James to 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field. Meanwhile, the Bulls' rebounding beat the Heat in offensive boards 19-6 and second-chance points 31-8.

"It's important to win," Thibodeau said. "We just have to go step by step. We don't want to feel too good. We have some things to clean up."

That sounded a lot like a Chicago sports fan who too often has been raised up just to be let down.

In a traditional sports town like Chicago with more than a century of precedents, comparisons always will rear their curious heads.

So, will the Bulls come closer to being the 2010 Blackhawks or the '10 Bears, the '05 White Sox or the '03 Cubs?

Sunday night was a terrific start toward doing against the Heat what the Bears failed to do against Green Bay a mere four months ago.