If you ask Joakim Noah, Wednesday's Bulls-Heat clash is just as big as it's been advertised.
Yeah, I think it's an important game. I mean, everybody sees it the way they want to see it. Maybe in the standings, but everybody knows tomorrow is a big game. Were all excited, the center said after the Bulls Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center. You want to play against the best. Its going to be a competitive game. They have a lot of great players. Its a team that eliminated us and went to the Finals. We just want to set the tone.
However, according to Tom Thibodeau, the showdown is only important because, as hes fond of saying, its the next game on the teams schedule, meaning there wouldnt be any extra preparation for the primetime affair.
Just all your normal stuff. For us, its not going to change. Every game, we do the same. The routine remains the same, said the coach, who had a one-on-one post-practice video session with Derrick Rose, a staple during last season. To me, theyre all the same. They all count the same. We have to be ready to play.
While Noah and Thibodeau have conflicting views on how big the game is, the two do share similar opinions on philosophy.
Play smart. Try to really limit our turnovers. Play good defense, which is something we havent done in a while, and play our game, said Noah. All these games against Miami are really, really close. We know we gave up a lot of points in transition off our turnovers. If we can limit that, it will work in our favor.
Echoed Thibodeau: We know we have to defend, weve got to rebound, weve got to take care of the ball. That was one thing in the game down there we felt we didnt do a good job of and the way they convert turnovers into points, if they get into the open floor, theyre hard to stop, so weve got to do a better job. More inside-out and well go from there.
Just run our offense. Theyre an excellent defensive team and LeBrons an excellent defender, and their team is excellent, so we have to try to attack them before theyre set and if they are set, weve got to move them, keep the ball moving, keep our bodies moving and the big thing is taking care of the ball, he continued. Theyre a good team. Were chasing them. Theyre the Eastern Conference champions from last year, so we know we have to come out and play real hard.
Thibodeau said that while the Bulls can take some lessons from their narrow late-January loss at Miami, he isnt dwelling on that outcome.
That ones long gone. The big thing for us is to learn from the games, move on, focus in on the next game and all were concentrating on is tomorrows game. Whats happened in the past is the past. Theres nothing you can do about it but learn from it, move on and be ready, he said. Theres not a big difference amongst teams in this league. The talents great on every team and Miami certainly has a lot of talent, and whats transpired in all our games is theyre usually very hard-fought and very close. At the end, it usually comes down to a hustle play and a make or a miss. Miamis tough. Theyre not going to beat themselves. You have to play well to beat them.
Noah discussed the fact that the East-leading Bulls are currently fighting off the Heat, who are second in the conference, for home-court advantage in the playoffs.
We know there are a lot of good teams so you have to take it one step at a time. But it would be ideal, he said. Its very important to hang onto home court. We know in the playoffs that home court means a lot. You still have to win on the road, but playing at home definitely helps.
Added swingman Ronnie Brewer: Thibs comes and tells us how important home court is for morale, if you want to make it deep in the playoffs and you dont really want to watch what other teams are doing because you hold your own destiny, but you look at the standings and see where the Heat are, where the third-place team is at, where the fourth-place team is at, and you just want to try to go out there and take care of business every time you step out on the court.