Bulls hoping to get the last laugh


May 24

As if losing two games in a row against a team it had defeated four consecutive times this season wasn’t bad enough, there have been other distractions that have surfaced since the Bulls’ arrival in Miami over the weekend.

First, a report by ESPN The Magazine claiming Derrick Rose said that there is a performance enhancing drug problem in the NBA, which he later denied saying. Then, Joakim Noah lost his temper during the first quarter of Game 3 and made an anti-gay slur comment to a fan which resulted in a $50,000 fine from the NBA.

Aside from everything though, the first back to back losses since early February and the distractions which the team insists won’t derail their focus, the Bulls are still in a position to tie this Eastern Conference Finals series with a win in Game 4 and come back to Chicago with an opportunity to go up 3-2. And the team insists its confidence is firmly intact.

“We just got each other,” said Rose of facing the adversity. “This is a family. We’re just trying to stay together, knowing that it’s definitely harder now. But we’re going to get through this. And this summer, we’re going to laugh about it later on.”

Perhaps what is most frustrating for the Bulls is that in both defeats, they were right there with just one quarter remaining.

“If you look back at the game, we were in the game,” said Bulls forward Luol Deng of Game 3. “The last two games, we were in the game with five minutes to go.  We win that game and all those stories don’t come up.

“I thought we did a lot of good things,” added Deng. “They are overshadowed by the loss.  This game is about winning, but there’s a couple of passes where we got fouls, went to the free throw line.  We made some good plays, but overall we’ve got to do a better job of just knocking down shots.”

The Heat has outplayed the Bulls on defense, especially in Game 3, and if Chicago is to win in Game 4, Rose said the team must stay focused on excelling at that end of the floor.

“We have to bring more intensity to the game,” said Rose. “We have to be the first to the floor, first on the rebounding side.  Guards still have to get in and rebound and help the bigs.  And we have to play more aggressive on both ends.  Way more.”

And while Rose hasn’t been his typical self in the last two fourth quarters, his teammates believe more than ever that’s a trend that won’t last long.

“Listen, he’s Derrick Rose.  He’s the MVP,” said Carlos Boozer. “He’s going to get a lot of attention.  We’ll see double‑teams, triple‑teams, we’ll see weakside defenders getting a lot of attention from them.  Trust me, he’s doing everything he can to make the right plays for us.  We have to do a good job of getting open for him and making shots for him to make it easier for him.”

Calling Miami the “most athletic team in the playoffs,” Deng is also confident that Rose will bounce back.

“He’s going to come out next game and do a good job.  He’s done it all year,” said Deng of Rose. “I know he’s going to come out next game. Even if it doesn’t go well, he’s going to come out the game after that.  That’s just the kind of team we are all year.  We’re just going to keep on fighting.  We’re going to find a way.”

While Miami may currently have momentum on its side, a Bulls win in Game 4 would significantly shift the direction of the series. The last two games will become a distant memory if after 48 minutes of action the series is tied as it heads back to the United Center.

“That’s our goal,” said Boozer. “We go out there and try to win every game.  I think the last two games, the fourth quarter, Game 2 it was tied at 73 for a couple of minutes with four or five minutes to go.  [Game 3] was a three or four‑point game with five minutes to go.  They go on a 9‑0 run.  We want to be the team that goes on the run [Tuesday] night.”

Now more than ever, the Bulls must embrace coach Tom Thibodeau’s game by game approach and lock in on the task at hand.

“I think our focus is going to be there,” said Deng. “We’re fighters. We’re very disappointed to have lost that last one. We’ve got an opportunity to turn things around.”

“We’re a confident group of guys,” added Boozer. “We believe in our system and we believe in each other.  We believe we can get a win.”

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