Now that we know that the defending-champion Heat’s winning streak will be intact when the Bulls host them Wednesday at the United Center, it’s appropriate to put things in perspective.
But while many observers will look at Miami’s run in awe — after dispatching Orlando on the road Monday night, it reached 27 consecutive wins, gradually approaching the Lakers' record of 33 straight victories — Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t see things the same way.
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“That’s not the way we look at it. The way we look at it is get in, learn from this game, improve and be ready for who the next opponent is. Obviously they’re playing at a very high level. All the games count the same and we’ve got to be ready,” said the coach, who admitted that “it’s pretty incredible what they’re doing,” when prodded after the Bulls' win Sunday night at Minnesota. “When you win, everyone’s confidence goes way up. They’re winning because they’re playing well. That’s why they’re winning. Nothing has changed. Miami, that organization has always stood for hard-playing, tough, defense, share the ball, play to win. They’ve maintained a very high standard for a long time.”
Thibodeau’s players see things the same way.
“They’re one of our biggest rivals,” Jimmy Butler said. “Who doesn’t want to beat Miami? One of the best records in the league, great players, but more than anything, we just want to protect our home floor and win as many games as possible, and just keep pushing and get that momentum going toward the playoffs.”
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“But I feel like you’ve got to approach every game the same way because you can get beat by Miami or whoever else is in this league. They’re all NBA players, they’re all very, very talented, so you can’t overlook one team and skip right to Miami. But we will be focused and keyed in on every aspect of their team. We’re going to play hard and try to get that one at home,” he continued. “We don’t even pay attention to it. We try to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and enjoy this win, and tomorrow we’ll get focused on Miami.”
All-Star Luol Deng added: “If they were coming in and they didn’t have the [streak], I still think it would be a big game.”
“We’re going to approach it as a game that we’ve got to win. Obviously, yeah, it’s going to be back of our minds that they’ve got a streak and in the back of their minds, too. But the bottom line is really just getting a win.”
Nate Robinson took the approach that the game is less about ending the streak, simply getting a win or building toward the postseason than avenging their last matchup with Miami, a Feb. 21 home defeat.
“They blew us out last we time we played, so yeah. We know what that feeling is like and we know how to win. We beat them down there, so for us to come in, not really worry about the record. Just play them for the team that they are,” he explained. “They’re the world champs and we’re coming in, trying to defend our home court, so we’re going to come in, play hard, have fun and hopefully get the job done.”
As usual, the Bulls could be short-handed for the contest, with Marco Belinelli recovering from an abdominal-muscle strain and Joakim Noah battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Both players missed Sunday’s win, but are on the mend and Noah, according to a source, is likely to suit up Wednesday, while reports indicate Belinelli could also be back.
It’s a familiar situation for the Bulls, who are unlikely to have the services of injured guards Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton, so being undermanned won’t be an excuse against Miami.
“I feel like if you hear the same things every day, you start to buy into it,” Butler said. “Thibs is constantly telling us that we have enough to win on any given night, so I feel like as long as we play hard and play for one another, we can win.”
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Robinson added: “We all made it to the NBA for a reason. We’re all professionals, so one guy goes down, another guy steps up and is ready to play.”
Even when fighting to not become a part of history.