Heat, Celts expected to play Bulls

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
6:30
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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James/GarnettMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe fourth-seeded Celtics and second-seeded Heat both thought the road to the finals would come through Chicago -- then Derrick Rose went down.


MIAMI -- Like the rest of the basketball world, Dwyane Wade figured he and his teammates would be playing the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals right now. Then Derrick Rose's left knee went out and everything changed.

"Obviously, that's what everyone (expected) it to be but we know how the season goes," Wade told ESPNChicago.com after Tuesday afternoon's practice. "You never know what can happen and obviously injuries is a big part of this game for many, many years and it happens and it's the reason why certain teams don't have the year that they was projected to have. So it's unfortunate that because of injuries they're not in the Eastern Conference finals but it is what is right now and we're just hoping for no more injuries in our league period, from this point on."

Wade wasn't alone in his thoughts. His coach, Erik Spoelstra, admitted that even he was a little surprised that it was the Boston Celtics that Heat are now facing for a trip to the Finals, not the Bulls.

"Initially, yeah," Spoelstra said after Tuesday's practice. "And that's why it's a shame. None of else felt good about Rose's injury. As a competitor, you can't feel good about it. You want everybody to be healthy and may the best team win. I think in the back of our minds, just the way we are, we assumed at some point we'd be facing Boston and then Chicago in whatever order at some point during the playoffs."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers felt the same way. He figured his team would have to get through Chicago in order to face Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.

"Yeah, we did," Rivers told ESPNChicago.com. "When Rose went down ... it changed."

Rivers, who counts Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau as a close friend, believes that the emotional blow the Bulls had to deal with was probably too much to overcome.

"It's still a tough blow, just mentally for the team this year," Rivers said. "I thought with the injury in front of the entire crowd and team, I thought that was tough to recover from."

While both players and coaches from the Heat and Celtics hope Rose gets better soon, nobody is feeling sorry for the Bulls. Spoelstra brushed off the notion that the Heat somehow caught a break because of Rose's injury.

"No, nobody's looking at it (like that)," he said. "Everybody has to deal with something. We lost a player that we couldn't win without."

Spoelstra was referring to injured star Chris Bosh.

"For two years (people said) we couldn't win without him."

While the Bosh and Rose comparison is not really the same, Spoelstra's point is the same one he has undoubtedly made to his team.

In the short term, the Bulls, like Spoelstra's Heat, will have to learn to win without one of their superstars for a large chunk of next season. The difference is that Rose, as the cornerstone of a franchise, means much more to the Bulls than Bosh does to the Heat.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5