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Bulls aren’t into magic; focused on getting better

Kyle Korver (from left) Derrick Rose Taj Gibsaren’t all thconcerned about standings. Their immediate goal is wlast six regular-seasgames.

Kyle Korver (from left), Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson aren’t all that concerned about the standings. Their immediate goal is to win the last six regular-season games. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 21, 2011 12:20AM



For fans and media, the Bulls’ magic number is four.

All the Bulls need to do is win four of their remaining six games, and they’ll have the best record in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs. If the Heat and Celtics each lose a game — and the Celtics still play in Chicago and Miami — even a 3-3 mark would do the job.

Considering that the Bulls have 20 losses, one more than San Antonio, the best overall record in the league also is very much in play. And the Lakers only have 21 losses.

For the Bulls, though, there’s no magic in those numbers. There’s only a process of honing their game so they’re ready to handle whatever lies ahead.

‘‘It might sound crazy, but I’m just worrying about over here,’’ guard Derrick Rose said. ‘‘Our destiny’s in our hands. We’re trying to finish strong and win every game.’’

Rose was pretty much speaking for the whole team.

‘‘What motivates everybody is getting better,’’ said forward Taj Gibson, who had 15 points and nine rebounds in the Bulls’ 113-106 victory Saturday over the Raptors. ‘‘Guys are getting more confident. Guys are gaining knowledge from the coaching staff. Guys just want to win.’’

There are all kinds of things at stake, things that go far beyond home court. The ultimate goal is a championship. Individual benefits include all manner of rewards, on and off the court.

None of that matters at the moment. What matters now is being the best they can be within the framework of the team. They have gone 18-4 since the All-Star break despite playing 13 games on the road, where they are 10-3 over that span. And they want more.

‘‘On this team, losing bothers guys,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘When they mess up on certain plays, they really beat themselves up. Guys really are sad in this locker room after a tough loss.’’

That spirit runs up and down the roster. The bench showed that by delivering 35 of the Bulls’ 113 points and 22 of their 43 rebounds against the Raptors.

One question the Bulls won’t be able to answer is how they deal with being the favorite in the playoffs.

Even though the Celtics have been struggling lately, they’re a veteran team with a proven postseason record. When Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, ‘‘We’ll be ready when the time comes,’’ it was a reminder that the Bulls will be battling on new ground in the playoffs.

On the plus side, first-year coach Tom Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant, has been passing along his experience and using proven methods to have the Bulls ready for the rigors and pressure of being a favorite in the playoffs.

‘‘We’re going step by step,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘When we get there, we’ll address that. But I don’t think we have to change what we do at all. We’ve already established our style of play. We’re not going to change when we get to the playoffs.’’



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