Bulls looking to get back to par


May 20

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So there are several men in the locker room getting ready to go out and play golf when a cell phone rings and one picks it up. It’s on speaker:

MAN: “Hello?”

WOMAN: “It’s me. Are you at the club?”

MAN: “Yes.”

WOMAN: “I’m at the mall now and found this beautiful leather coat. It’s only $5,000. Is it OK if I buy it?”

MAN: “Sure, go ahead if you like it that much.”

WOMAN: “I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the new models. I saw one I really liked. It’s $100,000.”

MAN: “OK, but for that price I want it with all the options.”

WOMAN: “Great! Oh, and one more thing. The house I wanted last year is back on the market. They’re asking $950,000.”

MAN: “Well, then go ahead and give them an offer of $900,000. They will probably take it. If not, we can go the extra 50 thousand. It’s clearly a pretty good price.”

WOMAN: “You’re the greatest. I’ll see you later!”

MAN: “Bye.”

The other golfers were looking at him aghast when the man with the cell phone says, “Anyone know whose phone this is?”

Everyone among the Bulls needed a good laugh after that disappointing 85-75 loss to Miami in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

So what better place to laugh at yourself than on the golf course, though Charles Barkley would have made it much more fun. So that’s where Kyle Korver was Thursday when Bulls players got a day off with Game 3 not until Sunday.

“I was out in the sunshine,” Korver said about the highlight of his golf game. “You get a little break. It’s strange how these games are set up.

Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday. There’s a lot of time in between. After a tough game, it’s real easy. You want to be in the gym and be able to take care of all that stuff. It was nice to get away for a day and be in the sun.”

The Bulls did need some R & R, perhaps also a bit of Renaissance and Rapport.

Korver is one of those.

He is an important element of the Bulls offense, generally finishing games because he is the team’s best pure shooter. Remember, last season his 53.6 percent shooting on threes broke Steve Kerr’s alltime single season three point shooting record. Korver came into the conference finals shooting an impressive 47.4 percent on threes, twice making three in games in the series with the Hawks and a four for four in the opening win against the Pacers. This despite averaging only about 18 minutes per game in the playoffs.

But Korver is two of seven on threes against the Heat and two of 10 overall shooting.

“It’s very frustrating,” Korver conceded. “We want to make shots. The easy thing to do is press harder and get really mad and frustrated. I thought I had some good looks the other night. The ball was in and out. The ball was off the back of the rim. Coaches have a saying, ‘It’s a good miss.’ As a shooter you hate that saying if something is a miss. You know, just to keep on trying to be confident. The series is young. There’s a long ways to go. There’s going to be a lot more shots to be taken.”

And Korver is going to continue get them.

“That’s the way we finish games,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “That’s what we’ve done all season. You need shooting on the floor. We have to try to open it up. Those are the same shots he’s made all year. He’s proven he’s an excellent shooter. If he’s open, we want him to take. As with the entire team, there’s other things that he can do to help us. He spaces the floor. He’s an excellent passer. A very good team defender. There’s a lot of things he can do to help. Kyle is fine.”

But it’s the Bulls offense that remains under scrutiny.

Carlos Boozer didn’t play in the fourth quarter of Game 2 as Taj Gibson replaced him for defense, though Gibson was the Bulls best offensive producer in that fourth quarter. Boozer’s absence wasn’t nearly equal to the controversy that erupted with the similar benching of Russell Westbrook in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. The Bulls will look to tweak some things, undoubtedly, to get more space for Derrick Rose late in games, their primary offensive option.

“You have to give their defense credit,” said Thibodeau. “It’s 73-73 with 4:36 to go and it’s a make or miss league. He’s got to be aggressive. We have to play with more pace. Defensively, I thought we were better in the fourth quarter. It was hard fought. Derrick had some shots that he normally makes. But we have to screen better. We have to keep the ball moving. We have to get some easy baskets. We have to execute and set better screens. Teams have loaded up on him all year long. So he knows what he has to do. He’ll study. He’s prepared. He’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to finish better. And usually that’s one of his strengths. He’s a great finisher.

“Part of it is you have to make some shots,” said Thibodeau. “If you’re not shooting well, their defense will be sitting in the lane. And they’re a great help team. So that’s why it’s so important to play with pace. So you make a miss, you rebound and outlet the ball and get it to the open floor, the defense is spread out. Now you can get into the paint and get into seams and either score or create easy offense for others. I think we have to look to post the ball more.”

Which comes back to Boozer.

He had that huge finish in the clinching game against the Hawks with 23 points and 10 rebounds and averaged 17.3 points and nine rebounds the last three games against Atlanta, more in line with his season averages. But in the two games against the Heat he is averaging 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. These are going to be lower scoring games, the exception likely being the first. But the Bulls are hoping someone breaks through. Perhaps they’ll have to do it by committee with Luol Deng with a good game occasionally, then Joakim Noah or Boozer. It’s worked reasonably well all season.

Of course, one issue for the Bulls is the Heat seem healthier now than they have been most of the season with the return of Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller making a relatively rare contribution.

“This is the first time the lineup we envisioned at some point in the season finally had happened with us, Mike Miller, UD (Haslem) and CB (Chris Bosh) out on the court at the same time. It worked,” said LeBron James.

“It only took us, what, 95 games to get to that point,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “It was a surprise to all of us.  It was encouraging to get those guys out there. And it did give us a lift. The 13 points (of Haslem’s) was probably a bonus. We weren’t necessarily expecting that. He’s an effort, energy and intangible player. So we don’t necessarily need him to score for us to be effective.  Both teams have been very successful at home, but we can’t take it for granted. This is a possession series. It really is. It’s a game of endurance. There’s not a lot of room for error on either side. So we have to continue to grind and stay mentally and physically into it. It’s an extremely physical series, which lends to close games. So even here at home we’ll have to play hard and we’ll have to play well.”

The Bulls haven’t lost back to back games since February. The Heat hasn’t lost in the playoffs at home.

So you know the story of the man who asks if there is golf in the afterlife. So he goes to church to pray and hears a voice that thunders, “I hear you and will answer your question!

“In Heaven, we have thousands of championship golf courses, play is never slow, it’s always free and you will never lose a golf ball.

“The bad news, of course, is tee off time is tomorrow.”

 Someone once asked Ben Hogan the most important shot in golf.

 “The next one,” Hogan replied.

 Hey, who knew Thibodeau was a Hogan fan.

 It’s time again Sunday for some big shots with “Four” being the goal in this match.

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