The Bulls have established they can compete with any team in the Eastern Conference. They went 2-2 against both Miami and Indiana, 2-1 against the Brooklyn Nets, beat the Wizards for the first time on Saturday, and also have wins against the rest of the projected Eastern Conference playoff contenders.
And while Tom Thibodeau's group staying afloat after losing Derrick Rose (knee surgery) and Luol Deng (trade to Cleveland) was just a nice story in January, as the calendar flipped to April it became clear the Bulls are capable of doing some real damage in the Eastern Conference playoffs, which begin in less than two weeks.
"At what point," the Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus asked, "do we think the Bulls can beat the Heat and catch lightning in a bottle? Win a few games, make them think and all of a sudden it's a Game 7 somewhere, and would you count against a Thibodeau team at any point? And what point do we start raising the bar for this Bulls team?"
The Bulls are no stranger to LeBron James and the Heat in the playoffs. Since James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, the two teams have squared off twice. Last season the Derrick Rose-less Bulls shocked Miami on the road in Game 1 of the East semis, but the Heat went on to win the next four games. And in 2011, the No. 1 seed Bulls also won Game 1, this time in Chicago, before falling in the next four games again.
Will this season be different?