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updated: 4/11/2012 9:37 PM

Bulls need Rose to stay in lineup

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  • LeBron James, left, drives to the basket against guard Richard Hamilton on Jan. 29, 2012.

      LeBron James, left, drives to the basket against guard Richard Hamilton on Jan. 29, 2012.
    Associated Press

  • Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) steals the ball from Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem (40) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

      Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) steals the ball from Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem (40) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, March 14, 2012.
    Associated Press

  • Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) listens to guard Dwyane Wade during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago, Wednesday, March 14, 2012. The Bulls won 106-102.

      Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) listens to guard Dwyane Wade during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago, Wednesday, March 14, 2012. The Bulls won 106-102.
    Associated Press

  • Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) dunks the ball as Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley, rear, looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 10, 2012 in Miami.

      Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) dunks the ball as Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley, rear, looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 10, 2012 in Miami.
    Associated Press

 
 

Asked if the Bulls are concerned about beating Miami on Thursday and building their lead for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Kyle Korver set the record straight.

"Thibs preaches every day, 'One game at a time. One game at a time.' We're a brainwashed bunch," Korver said with a laugh.

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"We don't walk in and talk about the Miami game last night. It's not like that. But we watch. We want to be the No. 1 seed overall, for sure. If nothing else, if there's a Game 7, you want to play it at home."

The next game is against the Heat, which makes it an appropriate topic of conversation. Derrick Rose is officially a game-time decision, as always, but it appears he'll be ready to play.

Rose returned Sunday from 12 games off with a groin injury, but in the process, sprained his right ankle and sat out Tuesday's rematch against New York.

Considering the Bulls lost to the Knicks with a rusty Rose on the floor, then beat the Knicks 98-86 without him on Tuesday at the United Center, it's easy to make this presumption: They have a better chance of winning this game against Miami if Rose doesn't play.

Obviously in the long run, the Bulls aren't going anywhere without Rose. But he's missed a lot of time recently and while he's been out, the Bulls built a different sort of winning chemistry.

The best example might be the assist total. They had 27 in Tuesday's win over the Knicks, compared to 14 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, when Rose hit 8 of 26 shots and committed 8 turnovers.

"We say it all the time -- we would prefer to have Derrick on the court," Korver said. "I think there's almost even more of a focus on defense and rebounding (when he's out), because we know we have to do those things to win."

The correct answer is Rose needs to play. Getting him back in sync with his teammates is more important than winning a regular-season game against Miami.

The top seed is nice to have, but history has proved it means very little. The No. 1 team in the East has gone to the Finals just once in the last nine years (Boston in 2008).

"Obviously, Derrick's a great player. We want him to be out there," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We feel good about the guys that are filling in and getting the job done. That's been a strength of the club all year.

"But Derrick's got to get some games under his belt, too, so he can play well. It's not an individual sport, it's a team sport. You have to get your timing with your teammates. You have to get your defensive schemes down and all that. So him playing is important."

Thibodeau tacked on a line about how Rose will only play if he's healthy, but that doesn't seem to be in question. Thibodeau admitted Rose wanted to play and probably could have played Tuesday. The team thought it would be better to stay cautious with the ankle injury.

"He's feeling a lot better today," Thibodeau said after Wednesday's light practice at the Berto Center. "All the swelling's out, so that's good."

The Bulls are down to eight games left in the regular season, though. It's getting to the point where Rose needs to get back on the court so he can return to his usual form for the playoffs.

They saw how much it meant to have Richard Hamilton look more like his old self on Tuesday. The veteran guard scored 18 of his team-high 20 points in the third quarter.

Hamilton didn't want to put too much emphasis on the next game against the Heat. These teams play once more in Miami on April 19.

"It's a game that we want to get and that's how we look at it," Hamilton said. "When the playoffs come, that's a whole different story. For us, we want to continue to get better."

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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