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Unlike last year, Bulls require more than brief cameo

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



A year ago, the Bulls were just happy to be here. But that was then.

‘‘Last year, we qualified on the last day, and it was a celebration,” center Joakim Noah said Friday, recalling how that joy turned to disappointment in a five-game loss to Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. ‘‘We gave it everything we had. . . . This year, our team is very different, but the approach will be to give it everything we’ve got again.’’

And come out on top.

‘‘You want to get past the first round,’’ said guard Derrick Rose, who also knew the disappointment of losing in seven games to the Boston Celtics in the first round two years ago. ‘‘I want to know how that feels.’’

Shorter bench

Just as coach Tom Thibodeau subtly rested players down the stretch while people were wondering if he was pushing too hard, he indicated he might shorten his bench during the postseason even though he has some of the best depth in the NBA. The many days off during a playoff series will allow that, he said.

‘‘We have an idea about our rotation,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re not going to change it a lot. But the fact is, there aren’t going to be back-to-backs. You’re not looking at four [games] in five [days]. So you can extend your starters’ minutes, depending on how the game’s going. If somebody’s got it going well, you may ride it a little longer.’’

Tough love

The free-spirited Noah isn’t as big on punctuality as Thibodeau is, but fines for tardiness are a small price to pay.

‘‘I’m not gonna lie, he’s a tough coach,’’ Noah said. ‘‘He doesn’t take anything lightly. He’s very big on time and things like that. So I’ve gotten fined a few times throughout the year. But there’s a big picture for him. He’s somebody who’s experienced at winning a championship. That’s a beautiful thing.’’

Not sold out

A limited number of tickets are still available at Bulls.com for today’s game and for Game 2 on Monday night.



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