Whether it's simply one team giving public respect to another or simply coach- and player-speak, the Miami Heat won't be taking the Chicago Bulls likely when the two begin their best-of-seven series tomorrow evening.
The Heat had shootaround this afternoon in South Beach and expressed admiration for the way the Bulls battled through seven games against the fourth-seeded Brooklyn Nets.
"They're kind of like the Boston Celtics, in the sense that no matter what happens with them they won't go away," Wade said of his Round 2 opponents. "They've got tough guys, mentally, physically, and they're gonna fight so no matter who's in that uniform they're gonna give it their all.
"And they've taken on the personality of their head coach, so they earned the right to be in this round and they've played unbelievably hard all season long. It's gonna be a good series for us and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Challenge was a word the Heat didn't need to worry about in Round 1, disposing of another Central Division opponent--the Milwaukee Bucks--in four quick games that were all decided by double-digit margins.
Often times the Heat were accused of coasting through the regular season--though the wins continued to pile up regardless--but they won't have any problem getting up for a series against a team that is quickly becoming one of their biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference.
"Them being the Bulls is enough. Heat-Bulls, I think that's enough to really get your minds going and have some passion for the series," power forward Chris Bosh said. "It's the second round, we have some major accomplishments we're trying to get to and they're a good, tough basketball team. And I think, given our history before, it's enough to lace them up and get going."
The Bulls don't have the talent to match the trio of LeBron James, Wade and Bosh, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the determining factor in the series could be who is able to work harder for the statistics that won't necessarily show up in the box score.
"You have two teams with two similar mentalities," Spoelstra said. "There will be a lot of things that decide the outcomes of these games but the effort areas--loose balls, rebounding--will be major factors."
Like any opponent facing the defending champs, the Bulls are major underdogs. But the Heat are well aware that the Bulls come ready to play a bruising brand of basketball that can take momentum out of a series--or a stadium--quickly.
"No matter what we think they are, how we feel they are, we're gonna have to come out and play the way we're supposed to play," Bosh said. "We know it's gonna be a physical, tough series and we're ready for it."
Added sharpshooter Shane Battier: "It's gonna be hard-fought, it's gonna be physical, it's gonna be emotional and it's gonna be I think well-played."
Game 1 is set for Monday night at 6 p.m., and CSN has you covered with Bulls Postgame Live immediately after the game.