Bulls expect series’ physical nature to continue


May 12

Joakim Noah is among those who expect the physical nature of Chicago’s Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Miami Heat to continue when the teams meet for Game 4 at the United Center on Monday night.

But he takes it a step further, saying it’s essential for the Bulls, who trail 2-1, to succeed.

“It’s our only chance,” Noah said following practice on Sunday at the Berto Center.

Joakim Noah

“I think it’s very normal,” Noah added. “You look at playoff basketball, it’s always physical. You look at every series, it’s physical. It’s just when you have somebody like LeBron James coming at you full speed, yeah, there’s a lot of contact. It’s just part of the game.”

Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, who has taken the lead on slowing down the NBA MVP this series while playing the full 48 minutes in two of the first three contests, agreed that the physical tone of the series isn’t about to head in a different direction.

“I feel like that’s what it’s been from the very beginning and I don’t expect it to change,” said Butler. “We’re coming in and we want to be the aggressor.”

It’s a style that the Bulls not only need to embrace, but it’s one in which they say they’re comfortable adopting as their own.

“Definitely,” said Butler. “We’re a hard-nosed, tough guy team. That’s what we label ourselves as; that’s what we pride ourselves on. We’re going to come out swinging; we’ll come out fighting.”

Remarked Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of the physical play, “Playoff basketball. That’s normal.”

Meanwhile, Thibodeau reported no significant improvement on the injury front, calling Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich day-to-day. Hinrich appears to be the closer of the two, though he was limited to some shooting and time on the stationary bike on Sunday.

Noah said the Bulls miss their leadership a great deal, but as a team, players remain focused on the task at hand.

“We hope they come back as soon as possible; come back right, come back healthy,” said Noah of Deng and Hinrich. “Obviously, everyone knows what those guys bring to the table. It’s definitely a plus. It is what it is. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. As a player you can only control what you can control and that’s bring maximum energy and do what you got to do to help win the game.”

Thibodeau stressed once again he believes the Bulls have more than enough. If Chicago is able to slow down Miami offensively in Game 4 that could very well be the case.

“I think they shot the ball very well,” Noah said of Miami in Game 3, which saw the teams tied at 77 heading into the fourth quarter before the Heat pulled away. “I think we did some things very well in the last game. There’s things we could definitely correct – the way we close out quarters. They got to the free throw line a lot. So I think we have to do a better job of being smart at the end of the quarters.”

With an extra day off between games, the Bulls had some additional time to watch tape and work towards making adjustments. Butler identified one specific area he hopes Chicago can correct.

“Don’t give up any layups,” Butler said of improving defensively against the Heat. “I feel like when they get into the paint, we’ve got to make them earn it from the free throw line. If we do foul, we’ve got to make sure it’s not an ‘and one.’ I feel like they’ve been getting into the paint entirely too easy.

“You learn from your wins and you learn from your losses,” continued Butler. “We’ll be ready come (Monday).”

Audio—Tom Thibodeau meets the media following practice at the Berto Center (05.12.2013):

Audio—Bulls center Joakim Noah looks ahead to Game 4 (05.12.2013):

Audio—Chicago’s Jimmy Butler on preparing for Game 4 (05.12.2013):

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