Bulls hope to put an end to Heat’s streak


Mar 26

As they have all season, the Chicago Bulls remain focused on winning the next game on the schedule.

It just so happens that on Wednesday, the opponent comes in the form of LeBron James and the Miami Heat, winners of 27 games in a row.

Following the team’s practice Tuesday at the Berto Center, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau downplayed the significance of being the team that puts an end to the streak.

Carlos Boozer

“I think [the media] gets caught up in that more than we do,” said Thibodeau. “For us, it’s about improvement, playing our best going down the stretch, and hopefully being as healthy as possible. The important thing is to not get caught up in all the hoopla and to understand what goes into winning and to stay focused on those things. A big part of that is knowing your opponent well, coming out and concentrating, and playing hard with an edge for 48 minutes.”

Kirk Hinrich, who returned to the starting lineup against Portland on Thursday after missing seven games with a right foot injury, agreed that the Bulls didn’t need any of the additional motivation that comes naturally with putting an end to the Heat’s winning ways.

“We just need another win,” said Hinrich. “We’ve been playing a little better these last few games and we need to keep building on it. Obviously, they are about as big of a challenge as you’ll get in this league.”

Nazr Mohammed, who could make his fourth start of the season if Joakim Noah isn’t able to return to the lineup, echoed that sentiment.

“It would be great to be the team that beats them, but at the same time, we can’t think about that,” said Mohammed, who collected a season-high 10 rebounds at Minnesota on Sunday. “We’re a team that’s trying to grind out some wins and this is one that we need. Everyone is focused; everyone is playing at a high level right now. We just want to go out and get this victory.”

As for the status of Marco Belinelli, who missed Sunday’s game in Minnesota with an abdominal strain, and Noah, who has sat out the last two due to a sore right foot, Thibodeau said both are feeling better and will be a game-time decision after participating in some of Tuesday’s practice. Richard Hamilton, still dealing with lower back issues, was more active but did not fully participate.

Wednesday will be the third of four meetings between Chicago and Miami this season. The Bulls took the first meeting of this season, a 96-89 win on Jan. 4, behind 27 points and 12 boards from Carlos Boozer, while the Heat won the most recent meeting 86-67 at the United Center on Feb. 21, the ninth win of Miami’s current winning streak.

While one could argue the Bulls have a size advantage which was evident in the Jan. 4 win – Chicago held a dominating 48-28 edge in rebounds, 20-7 in second chance points and 19-4 on the offensive boards – Hinrich shrugged off one reporter’s question on whether Miami is a vulnerable team.

“They’ve won 27 in a row,” said Hinrich. “So they’re not that vulnerable. They’re beating everybody right now. We just have to come out with a great effort and play as hard as we can.”

With very few exceptions, those elements have been consistent for the Bulls during Thibodeau’s tenure, something not lost on his team.

“We’re a pretty confident group and we’re well coached. We’ve got some hard workers,” said Mohammed. “Even when no one else does, we feel that we can beat anybody. Injuries play a role but that’s not an excuse because every team goes through them. We feel when we’re firing on all cylinders that we can beat any team in this league.”

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau meets the media following practice (03.26.2013):

Audio—Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich meets the media following practice (03.26.2013):

Audio—Bulls center Nazr Mohammed meets the media following practice (03.26.2013):

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