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Bulls looking to turn tide with Game 4 victory

Heguard Norris Cole drives lane as Bulls guard Nate Robinsdefends fourth quarter Chicago Bulls 104-94 loss Miami Hegame three NBA

Heat guard Norris Cole drives the lane as Bulls guard Nate Robinson defends in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls 104-94 loss to the Miami Heat in game three of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal game May 10, 2013. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 12, 2013 11:10PM



Their backs are edging
very close to the wall. But the Bulls, who trail the
Miami Heat 2-1 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, aren’t thinking about the implications of coming up short Monday in Game 4.

‘‘You think about what you have to do to win,’’ center Joakim Noah said after the Bulls’ light workout Sunday in Deerfield. ‘‘Our mind-set is, ‘Let’s make it 2-2 and go to Miami for Game 5.’ We’re not thinking about 3-1.’’

And the Bulls are thinking they have to be aggressive against the Heat, which also is physical — far more so than many people realize.

‘‘Miami’s been tough for a lot of years,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked whether the Heat has gotten tougher. ‘‘It’s a big misconception.’’

Thibodeau was fined $35,000 by the NBA on Sunday for comments critical of the officials’ decision to eject backup center Nazr Mohammed for shoving Heat star LeBron James in Game 3 on Friday. Thibodeau, who
already had conducted a terse media briefing, declined to react to the fine.

‘‘He’s focused on Game 4,’’ a team spokesman said.

No discipline was levied against Mohammed.

‘‘I’m trying to move on from that,’’ said Mohammed, who expects Game 4 to be another rough-and-tumble contest. ‘‘It’s going to be a physical game. It’s two great teams going at each other who really want to win. We want it badly. They want it badly. It’s the playoffs.’’

For all the attention given to the physical play, the key will be whether the Bulls can translate their aggressiveness into cooling off the Heat’s offense. After shooting 40 percent in the Bulls’ upset victory in Game 1, the Heat has come back to shoot 50 percent in back-to-back games to open its 2-1 lead.

The Bulls, who outrebounded the Heat 46-32 in Game 1, lost the battle of the boards 41-28 in Game 2 and 39-37 in Game 3.

‘‘You just have to run them off the [three-point] line,’’ swingman Jimmy Butler said. ‘‘Contest every shot. And when they do miss, we have to get the rebound. If they get the offensive
rebound and a layup, that’s 50 percent. That’s where that whole 50 percent thing comes in.’’

Complicating matters for the Bulls is that guard Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) and forward Luol Deng
(aftereffects from a spinal tap) appear highly unlikely to return any time soon, even though Thibodeau again called them day-to-day. Deng started feeling ill in the warmup before practice, and Hinrich also was limited.

‘‘He did some shooting and some bike,’’ Thibodeau said of Hinrich. ‘‘That was about it.’’

Thibodeau also declined to say the extra day off
between games would help his short rotation, which was basically six-deep in Game 3.

‘‘Most rotations are short in the playoffs,’’ he said.

Before Game 3, Thibodeau said the series would come down to which team could impose its will on the other. That still holds true.

What’s also true is that the Heat has the best player (James), two other star-caliber guys (Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) and a deeper bench that’s very skilled.

In other words, the Bulls are going to need an iron will to have their way in Game 4, even with a United Center crowd spurring them on. But the Bulls are determined to muster that kind of effort.

‘‘We know what time it is; they know what time it is,’’ Noah said. ‘‘The more physical team, the team that’s more aggressive, usually has an edge. They’re going to be physical games. That’s just part of it.’’



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