Bulls not looking at Game 1 as a great victory
Nitpicking, overanalyzing, dwelling on the negative.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is guilty of none of those actions, according to center Joakim Noah. Sure, everyone in Chicago, if not most of America, is overjoyed at the Bulls' 103-82 victory over Miami in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Then again, Game 1 is just one game. That's why Thibodeau talked about how the Bulls have to clean up some things before Game 2 on Wednesday.
"I don't think it's negative," Noah said. "It's just being on edge, respecting our opponent. It's not one win that makes us satisfied. We're trying to do something bigger than just win one game."
As usual, Derrick Rose sat next to Thibodeau following Monday's practice at the Berto Center and reviewed his mistakes from Game 1 on video. There were a few, since Rose finished with 4 turnovers.
"We're not satisfied. Every time we feel good about ourselves, something knocks us down," Rose said. "We just try to keep things going, making sure that everybody stays positive, stays right and stays hungry.
"It comes from Thibs. If you see how he focuses and prepares for every game, then next morning he goes out and does the same. Stays in the office all day. He doesn't have a life."
Rose meant that in a nice way and offered that he has adopted the Thibodeau philosophy of no room for anything but basketball.
"Not right now. I've got to sacrifice a lot of things," Rose said.
It was difficult to find much fault in the Bulls' performance Sunday. But just ask Atlanta how much it helped to win the second-round series opener at the United Center. If Miami can even the series Wednesday, it will head home with momentum.
"We did a good job winning Game 1," Luol Deng said. "We've got to let that go, especially playing a team like this. They've got guys who can take over games and go off at any time. We've got to realize if they win the next game, then it changes everything."
The Hawks and Miami have something in common. Both teams were routinely battered on the boards by the Bulls this season. The Bulls outrebounded the Heat by 32 in three regular-season games, then won the second-chance points 31-8 Sunday.
There has been talk about whether the Heat should return to a taller lineup, but that's really not the issue. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier, combined age 70, aren't going to box out Noah.
It's a "pick your poison" scenario when no single defender can keep Rose out of the lane. Teams use their big men to build a wall and try to keep Rose on the perimeter.
When a shot goes up, few centers have the speed to get back into position for a box out against Noah, Taj Gibson or Omer Asik.
Tear down that defensive wall and Rose will get into the lane at will, draw multiple defenders, and if he misses the shot the weak side will be wide open for a putback attempt, anyway.
The Bulls produced the NBA's best record because they have an ideal lineup to support Rose. When defenses gang up to stop him, he has Luol Deng and Keith Bogans on the perimeter, or Noah and Carlos Boozer inside.
A little more hustle would help Miami's cause, obviously. But giving up offensive boards is something teams have to live with against the Bulls. The Heat doesn't have the personnel to prevent it.
Veteran forward Udonis Haslem played garbage minutes Sunday and could get a longer run in Game 2, but he has been out with a foot injury since Nov. 20, so it doesn't seem likely he will be back in 2006 form by the end of this series.
But the Heat will have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at full strength. Those two combined for a relatively paltry 33 points in Game 1, hitting 12 of 32 shots from the field. That could easily change in Wednesday's rematch.
They also shot just 8 free throws between them, which is an accomplishment for the Bulls' defense, considering Wade and James both averaged more than 9 free-throw attempts in the first two rounds.
"We won by a lot," Deng said. "But if you look at the fourth quarter, with seven minutes or so, it was an 8-point game. They were still in it. We made a lot of mistakes and that's what we've got to focus on. We're not going to get caught up in what the final score was."
Forward Carlos Boozer agreed.
"We won't have an emotional letdown. We're ready," he said. "We've been ready for this all season. We're pumped up. We're excited. If you can't get excited for this, what are you playing for? We're not going to have that."