Jo expecting another tough series vs. Heat

Joakim Noah is excited to face the Heat and predicted: It's going to be a war. Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said Saturday he's excited to face the defending champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and he's expecting more than just another tough series.

"I'm very excited," Noah said after leading the Bulls to a Game 7 win over the Brooklyn Nets. "Obviously, they're the best. You want to play against the best.

"It's going to be ... I mean, this is what it's all about, playing against the defending champs. It's going to be a war."

The teams split the four-game season series with the most dramatic game coming on March 27 at the United Center, where the Bulls snapped the Heat's 27-game win streak in a game that featured physical, playoff-style basketball.

Game 1 is Monday night in Miami.

"We know how good Miami is," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So we're going to have to be at our best, playing great basketball.

"They're a very deep team, extremely well coached. Very well balanced, so we're going to have to be at our best right from the start."

Thibodeau cracked a smirk when asked what the health status will be for Kirk Hinrich, who missed the last three games with a bruised calf, and Luol Deng, who has spent much of the last 72 hours in the hospital with an illness.

"Day to day," Thibodeau said. "Day to day."

And there's always the specter of Derrick Rose making his season debut at some point during the Eastern Conference semifinals, although it's unlikely, but the point guard, who's rehabbing from ACL surgery, didn't shut the door on that possibility before Game 7 on Saturday.

Miami eliminated the Bulls from the 2011 Eastern Conference finals in five games.

"It's a rivalry, everybody knows that," Taj Gibson said. "We just have to regroup, get guys back healthy and take a stab at it."

Nate Robinson also is looking forward to facing the Heat.

“We got to bring more energy together as a unit, as one,” he said. “They're the world champs from last year, and they're on a mission, just like we're on a mission. Two teams about to collide and it's about to be a good show."