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SportsMonday: Bulls On The Mountaintop

There's still a long way to go for the Bulls, but what must - or should - frighten the Heat and whoever would come next, the Mavericks or the Thunder, is that this is a team getting better before our eyes. Talk about peaking at the right time.

And make no mistake about it, this is a team. Sure, without Derrick Rose these guys might not have even made the playoffs; that's why he's the MVP. But without the role players around him and the defense-first coaching philosophy of Tom Thibodeau, Rose wouldn't be in the playoffs either.

After all, the headlines announcing the Bulls rout of the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals last night name Luol Deng as often - if not more - as the MVP. Or don't name names at all.

"Deng, in addition to his 21 points, seven boards, four steals and one block, was the principal defender in limiting LeBron James to 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting," USA Today notes.

"Joakim Noah . . . had 14 rebounds, 9 points and 2 blocked shots and led a relentless assault in the paint," the New York Times notes.

And it was Taj Gibson who addressed the team at halftime - when the game was still a game - and then went out to deliver what Deadspin accurately describes as The Taj Gibson Dunk That Inspired Reggie Miller To Quote Martin Luther King On Air.

None of which will automatically prevent LeBron & Co. from turning the tables in Game 2; the Heat have yet to beat the Bulls this season (0-4) and they have to win sometime, don't they?

It may not get any better for the Bulls than the second half last night, but with 20 points to spare, it may not have to.

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Here are the official NBA highlights:

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Beachwood Baseball
The Cubs and White Sox are probably quite happy that the Bulls' deep run into the playoffs is diverting at least some attention away from their lackluster starts.

The Cubs think they're "hanging around" in the NL Central race, and it is only May, but a team with half a dozen No. 6 hitters but no one to bat third isn't one likely to contend. Our very own Marty Gangler investigates in this week's Cub Factor.

The White Sox, looking even more Cubbish than the Cubs thus far, put together a decent week but Juan Pierre is simply killing them. Our very own Roger Wallenstein takes a look in this week's White Sox Report.

Programming Note
Regular SportsMonday writer Jim Coffman is on special assignment scouting left fielders for both Chicago teams. He returns next week.

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Comments welcome.

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