Beating Heat boosts Bulls’ confidence
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 28, 2013 10:35PM
Bulls guard Nate Robinson lays in a shot past Miami forward Chris Andersen in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Miami Heat game Wednesday March 27, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: March 28, 2013 11:17PM
The celebration was quick.
It usually is when Tom Thibodeau is the coach.
For the Bulls, Thursday was for treatment and to start preparing for the game Saturday at Dallas. It was business as usual a day after they ended the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak.
“We play them in April, so I’m sure they will be looking for payback,’’ Bulls guard Nate Robinson said of the Heat. “We’ll see them soon enough. We’ve got some other work to do.’’
Not that ending the defending champs’ winning streak six games shy of the NBA record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers wasn’t work. But considering what’s still at stake this season, it was a reminder of what the Bulls can be in the postseason.
“What this game does, and it’s a great win, but it gives us confidence to know if we’re short-handed or if it’s a playoff situation, that we have what it takes to win,’’ center Nazr Mohammed said. “If you could look back and say, ‘Hey, we’ve done this before, we can do it again,’ you have the confidence to reach back to that.
“I’m hoping it could jump-start something good, but it definitely should help our confidence in tough situations.’’
The win moved the Bulls into fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. They’re on course to face the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. If they advance, guess who could be waiting in the second round?
“Look, they’re a great team, but the challenge is not to get caught up in the hoopla,’’ Thibodeau said of playing the Heat. “Stay focused. You’ve got to be prepared, you need to have an edge. If you get lost in all the other stuff, then you’re not going to be prepared to play well. It’s important to get locked in to being ready to play, and the challenge is not feeling too good about yourself if you do win. Come back and be ready to go for the next one.
“The challenge for us right now is we want to be playing our best basketball down the stretch, and we have to continue to improve and we have to have an edge.’’
Having more healthy bodies available would help. Joakim Noah (right foot plantar fasciitis) and Marco Belinelli (strained abdomen) are expected to be back against the Mavericks. Derrick Rose (left knee) and Rip Hamilton (back) remain out of the picture.
But a byproduct of the injuries has been the emergence of Jimmy Butler, who could provide an unexpected boost in the playoffs.
“My teammates let me know what I can become in this league,’’ Butler said. “They’re always on my side. That’s the biggest part to me. They’re always in my corner.’’
Butler, like Mohammed, didn’t want to put too much weight on the victory against the Heat, but he knew its importance.
“I feel like it’s a momentum-shifter,’’ Butler said.
That opinion was shared throughout the locker room, but it stopped at the coach’s office.
Asked if ending the Heat’s streak could galvanize his team, Thibodeau replied without hesitation.
“Yeah,’’ Thibodeau said. “I think it’s a silly media angle.’’