NEW YORK -- Most Bulls fans probably never considered this fact, but guard Marco Belinelli said after the Game 7 victory in Brooklyn that he made history.
"I wanted to win this game so bad. I've never been in the conference semifinals," he said. "I'm going to be the first Italian guy that is going to play the second round. So I'm happy and I just love this team. Tonight was unbelievable."
Well, let's see: Andrea Bargnani no, Danilo Gallinari no. So Belinelli is probably right. He certainly rose to the occasion, scoring 24 points, starting his second straight game in place of an ailing Luol Deng.
"My mentality was to be aggressive every time, because they didn't play good pick-and-roll defense," Belinelli added. "This is the Bulls. I have to be honest, this is something special."
Teague, Cook step in:
One of the key moments in Game 7 was the second quarter, when the lightly-utilized backcourt of rookie Marquis Teague and Daequan Cook helped spark a 15-2 run that stretched a 4-point lead to 17.
Teague came back in the fourth quarter and played a total of 14:29 in Game 7, easily his longest run in a game since March 15. Cook, who hit a 3-pointer in the second quarter, had played just 1:06 previously in this series.
"I wasn't surprised," Teague said. "Thibs goes with whatever's working. He felt like I was out there competing at a high level, so that's what he went with. I was ready for whatever. If I need to be on the bench cheering, that's fine too."
Nate takes another hit:
Nate Robinson was flattened by a Gerald Wallace screen in Game 4. On Saturday, Wallace stepped on Robinson's head. The incident happened in the third quarter after Robinson tripped and it appeared to be accidental. Robinson came right back, drove the lane and hit a running bank.
"You've just got to play through all that," Robinson said. "You fall, you get back up. No matter how many times it is, you've got to be a warrior and be ready to play through everything."
Turning up Heat:
Here are some early opinions on the second round series against Miami:
"I'm very excited," Joakim Noah said. "Obviously, they're the best and you want to play against the best. This is what it's all about, playing against the defending champs. It's going to be a war."
Added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: "We know how good Miami is, so we're going to have to be at our best or playing great basketball. They're a very deep team, extremely well coached, well-balanced. We're going to have to be at our best from the very start."