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Bulls got dose of their own medicine vs. Heat’s lockdown ‘D’

Updated: February 24, 2014 9:32PM



ATLANTA — It’s been easy to forget.

After all, the Bulls haven’t had to deal with teams that dine on defense such as the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers since early December.

On Dec. 5, to be exact, when the Bulls manhandled the Heat, evening their record against the two Eastern Conference powerhouses at 2-2.

Since then, the Bulls have played a lot of high-powered offensive teams from the West and beaten up a lot of the waste floating around in the East. That’s how the Bulls have improved from 13-18 at the start of January to a team looking to grab home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

But a punch-in-the-mouth game? It was almost as if the Bulls had forgotten what that was like. At least until Sunday.

It wasn’t just the Heat’s nine three-pointers that made the Bulls uncomfortable. It was a defense that had the ability to strangle them. The Bulls had inflicted the same kind of suffocating defense on other teams during their 17-8 surge heading into Atlanta tonight.

“They’re good, real good,’’ Taj Gibson said of the Heat’s defense. “They just got hot on a couple shots, a lot of contested twos that we could live with, but the defense was there for them the entire game.

“They take away your strong suit. They pack the paint, especially in the post. They front a lot. But the main thing is their guards are real smart as far as just getting in there. One time I thought I had the rim to myself, and D-Wade [Dwyane Wade] just came out of nowhere. They’re real crafty.’’

Not that the Bulls should have been surprised.

After losing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season because Nate Robinson scored 27 points, the Heat adjusted by aggressively trapping Robinson on the pick-and-roll. It also pressured him as soon as he crossed half court. Robinson scored 28 points in the next three games combined, including an 0-for-12 shooting performance in Game 4. The Heat won the series in five games.

Earlier this season, Derrick Rose got a dose of that Miami trap. He was double-teamed to negate the pick-and-roll throughout the game and shot 4-for-15 in a 107-95 loss. Rose acknowledged that he didn’t remember teams being that aggressive with him on double-teams.

The latest victim: D.J. Augustin.

The Bulls’ offensive igniter went 0-for-10 and finished with two points from the free-throw line Sunday. No wonder coach Tom Thibodeau made the decision to stay in Miami overnight and have a film session Monday before flying to Atlanta.

Nothing like watching a dose of your own medicine being handed out.

“They are good,’’ Thibodeau said of the Heat’s defense. “That’s why you have to move the ball. We got in trouble when we started dancing and holding the ball. When you do that, you’re not going to be effective, and part of that is when you have the good ball movement, you miss the open shots, miss the open three, we don’t always have to take the long three, either. As long as you’re putting them in the long closeout, you then have the opportunity to drive it, post it, have to get that balance.

“Yet, we have to give [the Heat] credit. They played hard in the second half. But we have enough guys that can score. There are other things you can do [if you’re not scoring].’’

When it comes to facing the Heat and the Pacers, the Bulls’ players might want to figure that out.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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