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Bulls eager to get back at Heat

Derrick Rose Bulls (1) head coach Tom Thibodeau walk bench during time out against HeGame 2 Eastern Conference Finals United

Derrick Rose of the Bulls (1) and head coach Tom Thibodeau walk to the bench during a time out against the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the United Center Wednesday, May 18, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 22, 2011 7:21PM



The Bulls slept in on Thursday, a good day to shake off any possible hangover effect from the humbling way the Miami Heat handled them in Game 2.

Coach Tom Thibodeau gave his players the day off, but it’s safe to assume he was in his Berto Center office, coming up with plenty of X’s and O’s. Even Thibodeau knows, though, that strategy alone won’t mean much without better energy. Boundless energy.

‘‘When we started missing shots, it took a lot out of us,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We played low-energy offense. We played low-energy defense.’’

Or, as guard Kyle Korver put it: ‘‘We can’t let them play harder than us. That has to be us.’’

Maybe it was because the Bulls’ joyous 103-82 victory dance in Game 1 made LeBron James mad. But as inspiring as the numbers were in Game 1, that’s how ugly they were for the Bulls in Game 2.

They were outscored 12-2 in the last seven minutes of the fourth quarter, a quarter in which they scored only 10 points, the fewest in a quarter in team playoff history. They shot only 34 percent (28-for-82), their worst shooting of this postseason. The Bulls also shot a disastrous 15 percent on three-pointers (3-for-20).

Key shooters Derrick Rose (7-for-23), Luol Deng (5-for-15), Carlos Boozer (3-for-10) and Korver (1-for-7) were a combined 16-for-55 for 29 percent. Ouch.

‘‘It was pretty tough,’’ Korver said. ‘‘We never had a very good flow offensively. You have to give them credit. We had to take a lot of tough shots. No one had a great shooting night, so we didn’t really open up the floor for anyone else.’’

As grim as the numbers look, as disappointing as it is to hear the Bulls basically say they got outworked, one game does not a series make.

The heat was on the Heat in similar fashion after Game 1, when the Bulls were being saluted as the best defense since Tinker to Evers to Chance.

That’s why the Bulls — who are, after all, 4-1 against the Heat this season — are looking forward to the resumption of hostilities in Miami on Sunday night.

‘‘We’re definitely confident,’’ Rose said. ‘‘I know we can’t wait to go out there and play again. We’re the type of team where when things get tough, we stay together. Coach always talks about the playoffs challenging you in every way possible. We just have to stick together and know that it’s going to be a fun series.’’

One X-factor is Miami’s supporting cast in general, and Udonis Haslem in particular. Playing for only the third time since Nov. 20 because of a foot injury, the 6-8 forward erupted for 13 points.

If Heat role players are going to do that while the Bulls are trying to deal with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the King might make good on his goal of earning his first NBA crown.

‘‘[Haslem is] an absolute championship warrior,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ‘‘Now I question myself for not using him earlier.’’

If the pressure was on the Heat to prove something in Game 2 after their opening-game meltdown, that now applies to the Bulls, who need to steal one back in Miami on Sunday or Tuesday.

That’s what the Bulls intend to do.

‘‘We let one go, but it’s a tied series,’’ Deng said. ‘‘It’s not the end of the world. These things will happen. We need to bounce back.’’

The Bulls are pretty good in that department. They haven’t lost back-to-back games since Feb. 5 and 7 at Golden State and at Portland. And they haven’t lost three in a row all season.

‘‘Give them credit; they played a great game,’’ said Boozer, indicating the Bulls are eager for their next opportunity. ‘‘Trust me. We’d rather play right away, especially after a loss like this.’’

They’ll get their chance soon enough. And knowing that they need to bring this series back to Chicago for Game 5 no worse than tied or risk having their season ended short of their ultimate goal, the Bulls figure to deliver their best effort. And see if that’s good enough.



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