MIAMI (AP) — If needed, there’s plenty of things Miami and Chicago could use as extra motivation before meeting in a playoff series, like how the Heat rolled to a win when they met in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago or how the Bulls snapped the reigning champions’ 27-game winning streak down the stretch of this regular season.
Then again, maybe the simple fact these clubs don’t particularly like each other is all the fuel they’ll need.
Top-seeded Miami plays host to fifth-seeded Chicago in Game 1 of an East semifinal series on Monday night, with the Heat coming off a week of rest after sweeping Milwaukee and the Bulls dealing with aftereffects of a grueling, seven-game first-round series.
Chicago took an injury-and-illness-riddled roster into Brooklyn and ousted the Nets on Saturday night.
For Miami, the biggest injury question is Dwyane Wade, who is officially listed as day-to-day with bone bruises around his right knee, but is expected to play on Monday. For Chicago, the medical report is far tougher to decipher. Luol Deng wrote on Twitter that he would “see you guys in Miami” after missing the end of the Brooklyn series because he needed a spinal tap to rule out meningitis, and Kirk Hinrich missed the last three games of Round 1 with a calf injury.
It appears Deng will have to wait at least a few more days to see the Heat. He’s still not with the team and early Monday was ruled out for Game 1, with coach Tom Thibodeau saying he isn’t sure when Deng will rejoin the club.
Hinrich is a game-time decision for the opener.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pokes fun at questions from reporters all the time and can be easily irritated and annoyed, especially after losses, which is what made his reaction to Stephen Curry sinking seven 3-pointers in Golden State’s 116-106 win over San Antonio last month such a rare scene.
“It’s actually fun to watch,” Popovich said following the game in Oakland on April 15, when he rested most of his starters. “Everybody hates losing, but I enjoyed watching a talented kid perform the way he did, and he does it with class.”
Curry can captivate almost any audience in a way almost nobody else can, and he’s led the Warriors to the second round against the Spurs starting Monday night in San Antonio, where Golden State has lost an astonishing 29 straight visits.
What makes Curry so compelling might be the simplest of basketball skills: shooting.
All of 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Curry controls games without ever overpowering defenders. His shooting stroke might be the best on the planet right now, and when he gets going, nobody has found a way to slow him down.
“He has a gift that you can count on your hand how many people have,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “Everyone wants to be a shooter. And then you look at him, he looks like a baby. And he’s smiling and he never gets out of character and he’s a class act. I just think at the end of the day people see him and say, `Man, that’s how I want my son to be.’”