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Well-rested Heat welcome Bulls in Game 1
(Sports Network) - The Miami Heat have been idle for more than a week, but they'll need to get back to business, starting Monday night when they take on the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Heat finished a sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round eight days ago, while the Bulls took a decisive Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.
"We want to get back at it," said Miami's LeBron James, who was a near unanimous choice as the league MVP for a fourth time.. "We're looking forward to Monday night's game."
While this matchup won't be confused with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Heat and Bulls have built something of a rivalry this season.
The Bulls ended the Heat's 27-game winning streak, which was the second- longest in NBA history. After the setback, James bemoaned the pounding he took from the Bulls, especially two specific fouls, one from Kirk Hinrich and one from Taj Gibson.
"Those are not basketball plays and it's been happening all year," James said after the loss. "I've been able to keep my cool and try to tell Spo (head coach Erik Spoelstra), 'Let's not worry about it too much,' but it is getting to me a little bit."
James shook it off en route to another MVP, the best record in the league and a sweep in round one.
The Heat hope the week of rest allowed them to get healthy. Dwyane Wade didn't play in the series clincher against Milwaukee with a bruised knee. He is expected to be ready.
Chicago isn't really interested in hearing about injury problems.
On top of missing former MVP Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich didn't play in the final three games of the Nets series. Luol Deng missed the final two games.
"We've dealt with adversity all year. Our team has the belief that we can win every night," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "We've been short-handed and guys have stepped up."
First among them has been Joakim Noah. Battling plantar fascitis, Noah has been a warrior this postseason and registered a double-double in the series finale.
"Before this series I did not know if I was going to be able to play," said Noah. "I could barely walk. To be in this situation now and win a Game 7 like this in front of my family in Brooklyn. I'll remember this for the rest of my life."
Now, Noah and the Bulls will be decided underdogs against the defending NBA champions.
"That's our rivalry," said Chicago forward Taj Gibson. "Words can't express how bad we want to beat them."
Since the 2005-06 season, these two sides have met in the playoffs three times. The Heat won in 2006 and 2011, but Chicago swept the Heat in 2007.
These teams split the four regular-season matchups, each team winning one game on the road. Miami has won five of its last six and 10 of its last 12 against the Bulls at home.
05/06 10:34:08 ET