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Doc Rivers says Bulls motivated by ‘chip on their shoulder’

Celtics coach Doc Rivers is focused Bulls Heas he readies his team for playoffs. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Celtics coach Doc Rivers is focused on the Bulls and the Heat as he readies his team for the playoffs. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 7, 2012 8:22AM

Under the circumstances of the jam-packed schedule, it’s logical to point to the Bulls’ youth as the reason the team sits with the best record in the NBA.

Naturally older teams with players who have dealt with injuries over the course of their careers would be at a disadvantage playing so many games in such a short period.

But Celtics coach Doc Rivers had an different take on the Bulls’ success.

“Teams that came in the year with that chip on their shoulder, Chicago after losing to Miami, you could see that they attacked the season from the beginning,” Rivers said. “Their young guys they came into camp in great shape and they didn’t make a lot of changes.”

Until things do change for the Bulls — both the roster and their record — Rivers believes they’re one of the teams to beat.

He wasn’t shy about admitting that he’s only focused on the Bulls and Heat as he readies his team for a playoff run.

However, with the playoffs logistical calming into a more typical NBA schedule, that could make the Celtics a tougher out.

If the playoffs were to have started before the Bulls and Celtics played each other at the United Center on Thursday, the teams would be slated to meet in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“We believe we can play or beat anyone,” Rivers said. “Having said that, it’s Chicago and Miami. Chicago had the best record in the East last year and Miami won the East last year. So until someone says something different, it has to be those two. That’s the only thing we look at.”

Considering the Bulls’ sustained success under the circumstances of numerous injuries — most notably to Derrick Rose — Rivers’ candidates for coach of the year were limited to Tom Thibodeau and the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

Rivers was complimentary toward Thibodeau and the Bulls, going as far to see that without Rose, he and his coaching staff are presented with new challenges defensively.

“Well they’ve beaten us both ways [with and without Rose],” Rivers said. “So they’re pretty good. [The Bulls have] ball movement more without him, because when he’s on the floor, you want him to have the ball in his hands. When he’s off the floor they’re almost unpredictable offensively — very difficult in a lot of ways.”

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