CHICAGO -- You would think that at this point of the playoffs, there couldn't be any new, significant challenges left for the Heat. At least nothing that it hadn't seen through two rounds.
You would think that after finding their playoff legs against the Sixers and then ousting their Boston nemesis, there wouldn't be any slap-in-the-face type wake-up calls for this group.
But that's exactly what the Heat faces in these Eastern Conference finals, a new challenge it has yet to combat through the first 10 playoff games.
It's called an indefensible offensive force. This one goes by the name Derrick Rose.
That feeling that Sixers and Celtics players felt when either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade saw a perfectly played defense and scored anyway -- that's the feeling the Heat defense is about to experience throughout this best-of-7 series with Chicago.
The Sixers were sorely lacking a defy-the-odds superstar. The Celtics had players who could only play like elite superstars for segments at a time. Kevin Garnett was that player for one game and was nothing close in four others.
Rose is that player, and he won't just test the Heat defense every second he's on the floor, he also will test the Heat's unity. Defending Rose, the MVP with Wade's quicks and MJ's hops, will get so frustrating at times that it will test just how committed these Heat defenders are to their system, to their teammates and to their coach.
"Those are the habits we've developed all year long -- trusting each other, to wear on teams, and hopefully there's a residual from all of that," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
It's only fitting that the NBA's final four features teams with that kind of transcendent offensive talent.
The Bulls have Rose, the Thunder has Kevin Durant, the Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki and the Heat has two in Wade and James.
And defending that type of talent can usually go one of two ways. Either you stick to your principles and trust that, eventually, that dedication will win out, or you turn into this year's Lakers and, eventually, one of your key components is complaining about the lack of trust on the team.
As this series approached, everyone wanted to know how the Heat would adjust its defense to guard Rose.
A starting lineup change? A different rotation of guards? A more intimidating presence in the paint?
Spoelstra responded with more of the same. His only change was a subtle one, deactivating Zydrunas Ilgauskas in favor of Jamaal Magloire, giving Rose another brick wall to bust through near the rim.
Overall, though, he can't change the defense he has been coaching for nine months. Not even against Rose. Not in the third round of the playoffs.
"If you're at this point of the playoffs and you're trying to invent a new scheme, one that's not second nature to you, you have no chance," Spoelstra said.
"You're striving for perfection, knowing that you're not going to get there all the time. Great players are going to transcend great defense and teams. They'll make shots, they'll make plays. But we have to consistently keep on coming with what we do."
Here was the problem Sunday night: Not only was Rose scoring against the defense designed to stop him by hitting those jump shots he is not supposed to make, but he also put the Heat's rebounders in compromising positions.
The Bulls' frontcourt is relentless, aggressive and nothing like the Celtics frontline that featured a creaky Jermaine O'Neal in the middle.
Even without Rose collapsing the defense, there's always a chance either Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer would crash in for an offensive rebound. Add the Rose factor, and the Heat grabbing a defensive rebound almost becomes a 50-50 proposition on any Bulls miss.
All of those factors combined to create an abysmal third quarter for Miami.
Rose nailed two more of those three-pointers that you're supposed to want him to take. He managed another bucket and a couple of free throws, too, giving him 10 points in the quarter.
The Bulls compounded the Heat's pain with six offensive rebounds for 10 second-chance points while not turning the ball over in the period. The Bulls outscored the Heat 24-15 in the period despite shooting 33?percent.
The Heat, meanwhile, was the first team to give in to agitating defense. It reverted to one-on-one plays for either Wade or LeBron.
It all resulted in a hideous period for Miami. The type of quarter that supports the argument that Chicago's defense and team play will outshine the Heat's trio of stars.
Almost none of it is possible for Chicago without Rose.
The Heat can make up for great defense. The Heat can adjust to active rebounders.
The Heat can't account for the indefensible. Not when its own two unstoppable forces aren't matching it.
Beating the Celtics was nice. Beating the Bulls is a whole different monster.
A monster named Rose.