Joakim Noah

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, left, tries to work the ball past Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley during the Heat's 93-79 win Feb. 23. (Hector Gabino / MCT / February 23, 2014)

MIAMI AT CHICAGO: Sunday at 10 a.m. PDT. TV: Channel 7.

The Indiana Pacers suddenly aren't looking like the only threat to Miami in the Eastern Conference. Chicago's stunning surge since Derrick Rose was lost for the season and Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland is rooted in the collective toughness of the players left behind and the coaching brilliance of Tom Thibodeau. Center Joakim Noah has elevated himself into a most-valuable-player candidate, point guard D.J. Augustin has played like an All-Star and power forward Taj Gibson has generated a starter's production coming off the bench. The Bulls trail, 2-1, in the season series but routed the Heat by 20 points in their first meeting of the season at the United Center.

ben.bolch@latimes.com