|Injured vs. the Pacers, Rip Hamilton could miss his 24th game on Wednesday vs. the Bucks. (Getty Images)|
Updated March 6
I've been thinking a lot about peaking early.
The problem in the NBA isn't really peaking early. It's about what happens after you peak early. There's an inevitable fall back to Earth. The really great teams are able to stabilize rather quickly and go from "awesome" to "above average" without suffering hangover. But a lot of teams crash hard after a big win streak, especially in a wacko season like this.
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The Heat have done so twice now. They look like the best team in the league, no doubt, for about five to 10 games, then they crater, recover and work back uphill.
But Chicago? Chicago's consistent. You could argue the Bulls haven't really peaked yet, and that's a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Chicago has managed to topple just about everyone, and the team doesn't have losing streaks really at all this year. They're steady like a freight train, sharp like a razor. But it also leaves you wondering whether the Bulls have an extra gear for the playoffs. Last year, they did not.
When it clicks, their offense is really good and Derrick Rose is incredible, but they are still just that: Derrick Rose and some guys hitting jump shots and/or putbacks. So if they're winning all these games and they have D-Rose, what's the concern? The only concern is Miami.
Which leads us back to peaking early. The Eastern Conference playoffs may come down to where Miami is in its burn cycle. Currently, the Bulls are steady and strong, while the Heat have fallen back to Earth. The question now is how the two teams' basketball circadian rhythms align when they inevitably meet in the conference finals.