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Can Chicago's Bulls Beat Defending Champion Miami Heat?


We are getting deeper into the NBA playoffs and the question of the moment: Can the Chicago Bulls really beat the defending champion Miami Heat? The Bulls showed they can do it at least in one game. They won the opener Monday in their second-round series. It was really a stunning result, considering that Chicago is missing several of its best players because of injury and illness.

Tonight, Game 2 in Miami, and NPR's Tom Goldman joins me for some playoff chatter. And, Tom, can I thank you for something?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: You certainly may, David.

GREENE: I did not want to talk hockey. My top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins are in a lot trouble. So, thank you for turning the subject to basketball. I appreciate that.

GOLDMAN: Bring on the NBA, let's do it.

GREENE: Exactly. Well, so the top-seeded Miami Heat, are they in trouble in the series with the Bulls?

GOLDMAN: Can I give you a maybe on that?


GOLDMAN: OK, this Chicago team is playing with such passion and grit and intensity borne of a certain desperation because of all these injuries. And if they turn this series with the Heat into a grinding defensive battle, maybe the Heat are in trouble. If the Bulls keep getting major contributions from unheralded players, like Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli and everyone's favorite, Little Big Man 5'9" guard, Nate Robinson - maybe.

GREENE: Well, you know, I follow basketball pretty closely, I never heard of Nate Robinson before the series.


GREENE: Where did he come from?

GOLDMAN: He's been around. He's bounced around four different teams. We knew him kind of most prominently in Boston and New York. And he's used mostly as a spark plug off the bench. Always a crowd favorite. I mean, who doesn't love a 5'9" guy threading his way through the big NBA behemoths? Now, with all the injuries to the Bulls, he's starting and so much more than a novelty. His play on Monday was a big reason the Bulls won.

He gashed his lip diving for a ball and took several stitches. His scoring and passing fueled Chicago's 10-to-nothing run at the end of the game that clinched the win.

GREENE: I'm almost 5'9". You're giving me hope that I could do this.


GOLDMAN: You can do it.

GREENE: Right.

GOLDMAN: You can do it.

GREENE: You know these injuries that Chicago has, I mean their all-star guard, Derrick Rose, has been out this entire season. Other starters: Kirk Hinrich, I mean Luol Deng, we know these names. They're expected to miss tonight's game and yet the Bulls keep going.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, they do. It's a fascinating thing in pro sports, how a team bands together and how players who previously had marginal roles suddenly make the most of their increased responsibility. Now, of course, the Bulls are better talent-wise with Rose and Hinrich and Deng playing and healthy. But this group now is playing better than maybe they normally would be because everyone has a stake. Everyone is accountable. No one is standing around waiting for a star to make a big play.

Now, with all this said, David, but we need a reality check. Chicago is up one-nothing. The Bulls stole home-court advantage from the Heat. But I would say the odds are tremendously in Miami's favor that it will win tonight because it's a must-win game. And guaranteed you will see Miami match Chicago's intensity - something the Heat didn't do in Game 1.

GREENE: You know, out West, another possible playoff darling, the Golden State Warriors. I mean, they lost an overtime thriller to San Antonio in Game 1. They have Game 2 tonight. They have a shot?

GOLDMAN: They do. You know, they should've won Monday. They were up 16 with four and a half minutes left. Head coach Mark Jackson said his team will learn from that game. That should apply to him too. He's only in his second year of coaching. And some are saying that he made a tactical mistake by not resting Steph Curry, their star guard. He played the entire game except for four seconds. Curry admitted feeling heavy legs near the end.

So that's something we'll need to watch but it could be a thrilling series, if Game 1 is any indication.

GREENE: Even the best get tired. Enjoy the action, Tom.

GOLDMAN: Thanks, David.

GREENE: That's NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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