Originally Published: December 5, 2013

1. Rose's Words, Heat Tilt Bring Out Bulls' Best

By Michael Wallace | ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- With his body battered and in need of crutches to help him get to the front of a room filled with cameras and questions, Derrick Rose sat for nearly 12 seconds in silence Thursday morning as he pondered the right way to answer the piercing inquiry.

What would the former league MVP say to those who doubt his ability to be an impact, marquee player after suffering his second season-ending knee injury in a two-year span? How would he respond to critics who suggest the Bulls should move on without him?

Rose took the question personally as he addressed the media for the first time since last month's surgery to repair his torn meniscus, but delivered an answer that resonated throughout the team.

"You can be a fool if you want to," Rose said. "I know I'm going to be alright."

Eight hours later, the battered and beleaguered Chicago Bulls used Rose's message of resilience and a coming resurgence as motivation in handing the two-time defending champion Miami Heat their worst loss of the season. The 107-87 victory at the United Center on Thursday night revealed plenty about the current condition of both the Bulls and the Heat.

The Bulls have been riddled with injuries beyond Rose, but center Joakim Noah talked at length after the game about how the team fed off Rose's spirit and inspiration after seeing him Thursday. Rose had barely been able to leave his home in the weeks since his Nov. 25 surgery.

Carlos Boozer
AP Photo/Kamil KrzaczynskiThe Bulls handed the Heat their second straight loss.

Chicago had lost six of their last seven games, including four of five since Rose sustained the knee injury in a Nov. 22 loss to Portland. But what the win over the Heat represented to the Bulls was a both a reprieve and a reminder to the Bulls that they responded to tough times before.

"We've been going through a lot of adversity, losing the little homie Derrick," said Noah, who suggested the Bulls are still sorting through the shock of the latest Rose setback.

"It's been really hard on us. We've been through a lot the last couple of weeks. (Rose) going down, it's just really hard for him, hard for us. But we have to move on and it's not easy."

Hearing from Rose helped. Facing the nemesis Heat helped even more.

Those factors set the stage for an emotionally charged performance from the Bulls, who seem to have a knack for pulling off miraculous performances against the Heat. Chicago was also without Rose when they ended Miami's 27-game winning streak at the United Center in March.

This time, they did it by pounding the Heat on the boards and in the paint. The Bulls further exposed Miami's interior issues by outrebounding the Heat 49-27. While Chicago has grown accustomed to playing without Rose over the past two seasons, the Heat have struggled to adjust to the absence of Dwyane Wade, who sat out with flu-like symptoms and missed his second consecutive game. Miami was also without reserve center Chris Andersen, so the loss of two key players certainly played a factor in their lack of energy and toughness Thursday.

But roster cohesion and poor rebounding have become consistent challenges facing the Heat, who have lost consecutive games for the second time this season. Thursday's setback came two days after the Detroit Pistons also dominated from start to finish by bullying the Heat inside.

Noah had 17 points and 15 rebounds, essentially finishing off the leftovers after Detroit's Andre Drummond set the table with 10 points and 18 rebounds in the Pistons' 107-97 victory in Miami. Rebounding has long been a weakness for the Heat, who ranked at or near the bottom of the league in that department each of the past two seasons on the way to winning championships.

But adding to the problem this season has been the frequent lineup adjustments coach Erik Spoelstra has made on a weekly basis because of injuries and absences. Every Heat starter aside from LeBron James has missed at least one game this season, including five by Wade.

And for the first time this season, the combination of issues seemed to aggravate James, who has played through a sore back all season and is also dealing with a bum ankle and jammed fingers.

"We need to have everyone in our lineup," said James, who scored 21 points but missed 10 of his 17 shots from the field and barely played in the fourth after Chicago built a 25-point lead. "You know guys are going to be out by getting sick or hurt. It's just part of the game. That's been a challenge for us. We've been here before. We just need to get healthy."

James then went to his routine line when asked about the team's rebounding troubles. He quickly points out how the Heat don't have the luxury of a Noah, Dwight Howard or Kevin Love on their roster who can grab 15 or so boards a game.

Instead, they have to make do with the versatility of Chris Bosh, who never found his shooting stroke Thursday and finished with just two rebounds. When Bosh isn't dynamic and Wade isn't in uniform, there's virtually no margin for error with the Heat - regardless of James' greatness.

Spoelstra said the Heat simply need to be tougher like the Bulls.

"The answer to the problem lies only in that locker room," Spoelstra said. "We have to be more like them and attack the glass and control the paint. It is not a prime concern right now. We just need to address it and take care of it. We can't just brush this loss aside."

The Heat talked about getting back to rebounding basics.

The Bulls are just trying to rebound again amid life without Rose.

To that end, both Miami and Rose's message arrived just in time.

"There's something about when Miami comes to town, Noah said. "You know you wake up in the morning and you feel it. People in this city don't like the Miami Heat, we don't like the Miami Heat. A lot of battles, a lot of scars, a lot of tough losses, a lot of seasons ending because of them. I think our team needed it. It's always good to beat the Miami Heat."

Dimes past: November 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | December 1 | 2 | 3 4

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