Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau talks to his team during a timeout in the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference semifinal against the Miami Heat on Monday, May 13, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: May 15, 2013 6:21PM
MIAMI – Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t going to discuss anything beyond tonight’s Game 5.
“All we’re thinking about is Game 5, first quarter, that’s it,’’ Thibodeau said before Wednesday’s shootaround. “You have to go step by step. We understand what we have to do. And that’s it.’’
And that “step by step’’ is again going to have to take place short-handed.
Luol Deng didn’t even travel with the team, still trying to get over complications from a spinal tap, while Kirk Hinrich is “most likely out,’’ still slowed by a bruised left calf.
Then there’s Derrick Rose, who if this elimination game is the last stand for the Bulls, will have missed the entire season with the torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last April, in a first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia.
“It’s all part of it,’’ Thibodeau said of the injury problems that have plagued his team all season long. “Whatever your circumstances are, you have to make the best of those circumstances. This team has dealt with adversity all year. We’ve had the unique ability to bounce back. And that’s what I’m expecting tonight.’’
Sounds good in theory, but do the Bulls players really believe they can come back from 3-1 against the defending champs?
“Win or go home,’’ veteran guard Rip Hamilton said. “You’ve got to put everything into the game. If you lose, there’s no coming back and saying, ‘OK, we’ll get them at home,’ or having another opportunity to play them. So you just have to leave everything on the floor right now.’’
Jimmy Butler took it a step further.
“That’s not for me to say,’’ Butler said, when asked if he was in position to guarantee that they can force a Game 6. “I feel like I can’t guarantee it, maybe we can as a whole, but I like our chances.’’
Even if they do stretch the series out, Hinrich seems like the only injured player that would have any sort of chance of returning, and even that’s a longshot.
In Thibodeau’s mind, Deng was so weak that he’s been “deconditioned’’ with all the sitting around. And Rose? All of the teasing that’s gone on the past few months of a return have all but faded.
“Anything is possible,’’ guard Nate Robinson said. “We had Brooklyn down 2-1 [in the first-round series] and they came back and made a Game 7, so anything is possible.’’