MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the Miami Heat prepare to take the floor Monday for its second round playoff matchup against the Chicago Bulls, the biggest question surrounding the series is who Chicago will have on the floor for Game 1.
The Bulls have been without the services of point guard Derrick Rose all season long. Rose tore his ACL last year and while he’s been cleared to play and has practiced for over a month; he’s yet to suit up in an actual game for Chicago.
In addition, forward Luol Deng will not be on the court after having to undergo a spinal tap last week to rule out meningitis. Deng has been in and out of the hospital for most of the last few days.
Finally, the Bulls may be without guard Kirk Hinrich who was out for the final three of the Bulls’ first-round series against Brooklyn. Hinrich has been battling a calf injury and will be a game-time decision for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Chicago’s probable starting lineup will include Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah (who’s battling plantar fasciitis), Marco Belinelli, and Nate Robinson.
On the flip side, Miami is coming into the series at just about full strength. Heat guard Dwyane Wade has been resting his troubled knee for more than a week and is expected to start for Miami in Game 1 against the Bulls.
Outside of Wade, no other Miami player is listed in the injury report as the second round gets started at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami will be motivated as the Bulls were the team that ended the Heat’s 27-game winning streak on March 27 with a 101-97 victory. The Bulls still remember two years ago watching Miami come together and march through Chicago on the way to the NBA Finals.
"Them being the Bulls is enough," Heat forward Chris Bosh said Sunday. "Heat-Bulls, I think that's enough to really get your minds going and have some passion for the series. I mean, it's the second round. We have some major accomplishments we're trying to get to and they're a good, tough basketball team.”
The Heat are considered to be the heavy favorites going into the second round series against Chicago, a fact the Bulls are well aware of.
"We know how good Miami is," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We're going to have to be at our best, or playing great basketball. They're a very deep team, extremely well-coached, very well-balanced. So we're going to have to be at our best, right from the start."
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said after Saturday's win in Brooklyn that he didn't think many people expected Chicago to win.
"We've been hearing that noise all year that we don't have enough, that we're missing this and we're missing that," Boozer said.
James insisted the Heat aren't among those who might think that way. In fact, the now four-time MVP said he expected Chicago to pull off the rare trick of winning a Game 7 on the road against Brooklyn.
"It's how it should be in the East right now," James said. "It's the top four teams. That's what I believe. No matter the seedings, it's the top four teams, with us, Chicago and Indiana-New York."
Bulls center Joakim Noah said he expected a physical matchup - "it's going to be a war," he said - and the Heat said Sunday they were bracing for plenty of rugged play in this series.
In fact, it almost sounds like both sides would be disappointed otherwise.
"It's going to be hard-fought," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "It's going to be physical. It's going to be emotional. And I think it's going to be well-played. That's all that matters."
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