The strongest argument for the Bulls keeping their roster intact after Thursday's 2 p.m. trade deadline was made on Wednesday night at the United Center.
Beating the Heat had become difficult enough with Derrick Rose. Without him, the Heat's much anticipated first appearance here since eliminating the Bulls from the Eastern Conference Finals last season looked like a mismatch. Instead, the Bulls thrilling 106-102 win was perhaps the greatest example yet to the Bulls extraordinary depth.
The Bulls compensated for the obvious talent gulf with depth, intensity, relentless rebounding and lights out shooting from behind the three-point stripe.
The Bench Mob outscored Miami's reserves 56-15. The Bulls outrebounded the Heat 50-34.
"This is a great testament to our team," Taj Gibson said. "Everybody from top to bottom is humble and team oriented. We don't have any animosity. Everybody is always building each other up."
John Lucas was the Bulls go-to offensive threat during long stretches of the first and second halves and finished with 24 points, including a pair of free throws with six seconds left to seal it. Gibson is often mentioned in possible deals. He picked up where he left off in the fourth quarter of Monday night's win over the Knicks with eight points and eight rebounds. Rookie Jimmy Butler contributed on both ends, even when guarding LeBron James, who finished with 35.
Not only was Rose out, but the team's two other primary scorers --- Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer --- combined for only 13 points.
"For fans, it's easy to get caught up in stats and what people could do," Kyle Korver said of trade speculation. "I understand it. We didn't win last year and until we do there will be doubters. But we all believe in each other and we love plaing together. Our chemistry is so good on the floor. We genuinely like each other."
Anybody who saw Rose shuffling down the hallway outside the locker room before the game knew he wasn't going to play before Thibodeau made it official. Rose has a strained groin that Thibodeau said wasn't the result of any one play in Monday night's win over the Knicks but rather a "compilation of things over time."
He is listed as day-to-day, which if we've learned anything this season means he could either play against Portland on Friday or not until sometime next month.
"It was unbelievable," Deng said. "A lot of people would worry hearing Derrick would miss the game but everyone in the locker room stepped up and took on the challenge."
James dominated the first quarter with 14 points but the Bench Mob helped the Bulls outscore Miami 34-19 in the third quarter with unbelievable energy on both ends of the court. The Bulls ferocious play was epitomized by Joakim Noah blocking a Dwyane Wade shot only to dunk on Joel Anthony on the Bulls ensuing trip down the floor. That put the Bulls up by 12 with 4:35 left in the second quarter, had the United Center crowd in an ear-bleeding frenzy, Carlos Boozer pumping his fist and Noah leaping into teammates coming off the bench.
The frenzied crowd helpd the Bulls maintain that momentum until the end.
The city of Chicago wanted this matchup more than we did," Gibson said. "They were amped up."