Bulls don’t care whom they’ll face; they just want to finish strong
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter April 1, 2014 8:17PM
BULLS AT HAWKS
The facts: 6:30 p.m., CSN, 1000-AM.
Updated: April 1, 2014 9:02PM
Bulls forward Taj Gibson has no idea how the rest of the regular season is going to play out in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s crazy right now,’’ Gibson said.
And getting crazier by the day.
Two weeks ago, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Pacers would be the No. 1 seed, followed by the Heat with the Bulls battling the Raptors for the third seed.
“I don’t know what’s been going on,’’ Gibson said.
Well, the Pacers have lost six of their last eight games, the Heat has taken over the No. 1 seed by percentage points and the Raptors and Bulls are tied for the No. 3 spot.
Forget trying to figure out a possible second-round opponent for the Bulls. They can’t even guess on the first round.
Frankly, they don’t care.
Even though the Heat has knocked them out of the playoffs two of the last three seasons, the Bulls would welcome a matchup against Miami in the second round — assuming they make it out of the first round.
“Just make sure everyone knows that whatever team is going to play us, you’re going to be in for a long fight,’’ Gibson said. “That’s the mentality you’ve got to have. Whatever happens, happens. Forget it. You just got to be ready to go out there and fight.
“We’re not scared of anybody. That’s our whole mentality. We’re ready for any kind of dogfight.’’
At 42-32 with eight games left, the Bulls aren’t worried about positioning. Their mentality is just win as many games as possible, and they’ll end up wherever they end up.
“We’re just looking to get the highest seed possible, and we’re not worried about who we play,’’ forward Mike Dunleavy said.
“We’re not looking to avoid anybody, that’s for sure. We’re going to take whoever we get, and we’re going to take them on, see what happens.
“When you start worrying about matchups and avoiding certain teams, well, then you’re going on the defensive, and that’s not where we want to be.’’
But a best-of-seven series against the Heat would seem to be the worst-case scenario should the Bulls advance past the first round, not only because of recent postseason history but also because it’s simply a bad matchup.
The Bulls’ physicality might work in the regular season against Miami, but the Heat flips on a switch in April and May, stepping up to the physical play and using its athleticism to run the Bulls off the court.
Even before they hit a scoring drought through much of March, the Pacers were a better matchup for the Bulls, two defensive-minded teams willing to duke it out.
But even with so much uncertainty surrounding the top seed, the Bulls are putting the pedal all the way down for the last eight games of the regular season.
“Whoever we line up with,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to be ready for everyone. If we’re fortunate enough to get there, whoever you’re playing, there’s not much difference between teams. Once that’s been decided, study, prepare and know your opponent well.’’