With Bulls up 1-0, Heat needs an energy solution
By JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org May 17, 2011 10:04PM
Bulls forward Taj Gibson’s dunks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals definitely sent a message. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: August 31, 2011 12:37AM
Monday was a proud day for Chicago.
No one was injured in the championship parade after the Bulls’ epic victory over the Miami Heat the night before.
Not one car was overturned. No storefronts were smashed. Not even a garbage can was lit.
Sure, there were a few Dwyane Wade jerseys draped over the newly erected Taj Gibson statue, mocking the Heat guard, but that’s to be expected when such a huge sculpture is placed in front of historic Buckingham Fountain.
Overall, just a great day for the city . . . wait, there’s a Game 2? Are you serious?
So that’s why the Heatles are still in town. It wasn’t just for the last Oprah shows.
‘‘I’ve been down before,’’ All-Star forward LeBron James said Tuesday.
And he was talking about playoff series, not just his mood, after the Heat’s 21-point blowout loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat does intend to show up, dress and take the court tonight. No, the series is not over. Far from it.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been telling his players the last two days that they have to match the Bulls’ intensity from Sunday. Obviously, adjustments have been made with the X’s and O’s, but, at this point, there’s only so much a coach can do.
‘‘There is no cavalry,’’ Spoelstra said. ‘‘What I told the guys [is] the cavalry is our mentality. And we have to come out with a much tougher, aggressive disposition, regardless of who plays in the game. Otherwise, the result won’t change.
‘‘So the cavalry is our mentality. The cavalry is our habits. We’ve built up tremendous habits as a tough, physical, defensive team that rebounds the basketball all season long. We’ve done that now for five, six months. We did not do that the other night. And they hit first, and they were able to sustain it. Now it’s our turn to bounce back.’’
Looking for a steal
The Bulls’ job is to hit again. Harder.
‘‘We understand it’s going to be a dogfight,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘We’re just focused right now. We’re going to go into battle. We’ve seen it all year long. We know they’re going to come out with a lot of fire.’’
The Heat had better.
Its mission statement was to steal a game in Chicago this week. But players weren’t prepared for what awaited them in the last 24 minutes Sunday.
Forget outplaying the Heat. The Bulls took a shock-and-awe approach with their lockdown defense and an offense that suddenly made three-pointers as if they were layups.
If Spoelstra had a background as a fight doctor, the towel would’ve been thrown in long before Gibson’s ferocious put-back slam.
Instead, the Heat just had to wear it, leading to the question: Who needs Game 2 more?
‘‘We approach every game as a must-win,’’ Wade said in classic player-speak. ‘‘We don’t look at any game as, we can lose this one. Our job is to come up here and steal home-court advantage and win one game. We didn’t do that in Game 1. We have an opportunity to do it in Game 2. That’s our focus.’’
That might be the focus, but how about actually showing up with some life, first of all, then taking it from there?
Heat has to get close
The Heat doesn’t have to win Game 2 to win the series, but it does need to play the Bulls close. More important, it needs to play with energy. Another blowout could damage the psyche of a team that wasn’t known for being mentally tough in the first place this season.
‘‘You can’t practice hustle plays and getting on the floor and getting loose balls and things like that,’’ James said. ‘‘Nobody practices those. Joakim [Noah] doesn’t practice diving on the floor on loose balls or outworking. You don’t practice those. It’s in you. You have to be determined to go get it.’’
As for the Bulls, a fifth win over the Heat in five meetings this season could resonate when they take their talents to South Beach — especially if they make it look easy again.
And then, imagine the masses flooding Grant Park on Thursday. Imagine the . . . oh, wait, there’s a Game 3?