Come playoffs, it's Heat

Ira Winderman

Sun Sentinel

The team most likely to finish first in the conference during the regular season?

That would be the Bulls, with coach Tom Thibodeau relentlessly pushing his team through this lockout-compressed grinder of a schedule. Look no further than Sunday's box score. The Bulls had Derrick Rose playing all but 31/2 minutes against the Heat in the first game of a back-to-back set.

The team most likely to advance to the NBA Finals?

Considering the Bulls got just one game from the Heat in last season's Eastern Conference finals, there is little reason to envision any other outcome, in light of how similar these teams remain to last season.

Bulls will challenge

Josh Robbins

Orlando Sentinel

The Heat beat the Bulls on Sunday. The Heat eliminated the Bulls in last spring's playoffs in five games. And the Heat have two bona fide superstars (plus Chris Bosh) to the Bulls' one.

So, Miami is the best team in the East.

Entering Monday, the Bulls had allowed opponents to shoot 42.7 percent from the field, and the Heat had allowed opponents to shoot 42.8 percent. That difference is negligible.

But Miami was shooting 48.3 percent, while Chicago was at 45.9 percent.

The Heat simply have more weapons.

But the Heat and Bulls likely will face each other in the playoffs, and the playoffs are the time when the Bulls can prove themselves.

Stars give Heat edge

K.C. Johnson