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updated: 5/7/2013 8:38 PM

Bulls-Heat chess match just getting started

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  • The Bulls will try to keep LeBron James and the Heat just as frustrated Wednesday night as they did in Game 1.

    The Bulls will try to keep LeBron James and the Heat just as frustrated Wednesday night as they did in Game 1.
    Associated Press


MIAMI -- Following the Bulls' Game 1 victory at Miami, Joakim Noah compared an NBA playoff series to a chess match.

On Tuesday, both sides retreated to the film room and went to work on their next move. Game 2 is Wednesday at American Airlines Arena.

"It almost becomes like you know their sets before they even run them. That's what it comes down to," Noah said. "They were a little rusty. We're expecting them to play a lot better in Game 2, and we feel like we can play better as well."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau made an interesting first move. While Miami likes to spread the floor with 3-point shooters late in games, giving LeBron James and Dwyane Wade room to operate, Thibodeau refused to match up.

The Heat played a one-big man lineup throughout the fourth quarter. Thibodeau stuck with two big men. In fact, the Bulls' lineup of Noah, Taj Gibson, Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler never changed in the fourth quarter.

"That's where the value of Joakim and Taj come in, in the fact when a team goes small, you can stay big because of their feet," Thibodeau said Tuesday at the team hotel. "They can guard smalls. We try to take advantage of that."

The Bulls outrebounded Miami 13-6 in the final quarter, though they grabbed just 1 offensive rebound. Otherwise, it was difficult to tell on the stat sheet how much the bigger lineup helped.

Noah took exception to the idea Miami played small in the fourth quarter.

"LeBron I wouldn't say is small," Noah said. "They're good. They play very differently. They spread the court."

What really worked for the Bulls defensively was keeping the right guys on Miami's main guys defensively. Every NBA team runs pick-and-rolls designed to create a switch and a more favorable defensive matchup.

With their versatile lineup, the Bulls can switch just about everything but don't want the 5-foot-9 Robinson to end up on James or Wade and would prefer not to have Belinelli in that spot either.

They seemed to solve the issue by having Noah basically hover and monitor the pick-and-rolls. If the Heat tried to involve Robinson in a switch, the Bulls would switch again and were more than happy to let James or Wade work against the taller Noah, with plenty of help collapsing into the lane.

Noah and Thibodeau might consider James a big man, but the Bulls always kept Butler as the primary defender on the four-time MVP. With Noah on Chris Bosh, that meant Gibson had to chase someone on the perimeter, and he guarded Ray Allen for much of the fourth quarter.

"I'm not used to running around facing shooting guards, as you can tell," Gibson said after the game. "I did that in practice, guarding Derrick (Rose). I was just so tired. Tonight, I'm still beat, just being out there chasing guys around."

Gibson scored 6 points in the Game 1 fourth quarter, including a corner jumper with 4:24 left.

A big part of the Bulls' victory was simply making shots. Butler and Belinelli combined to knock down 3 shots from 3-point range in the final five minutes, while Robinson scored the game's final 7 points.

"There's no magic to it," Thibodeau said. "You have to put the work into winning. There's five things we always talk about, try to get established in every game. It's the defense, the rebounding, low turnover, inside-out, share the ball.

"If you do that and everyone does their job, we feel we're going to have a chance to win, no matter where we are, no matter who we're playing against."

Both teams remember what happened in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, when the Bulls won the series opener, then Miami rolled to 4 straight victories.

The resilient Bulls might be the talk of the sports nation today, but there's a long way to go in this series.

•Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls and check out his All Bull blog at

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