From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Jim Harbaugh stepped to the podium, smirked a bit, and greeted his first news conference as a Super Bowl coach."We're super happy to be here," he said Sunday night as his NFC champion San Francisco 49ers arrived in the Big Easy for the big game."I think this team has the best focus on unity and winning I've ever been a part of."Considering that Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons and a successful college coach before joining the 49ers, he knows something about winning.Under Harbaugh, San Francisco has been to two NFC title games and, now, to its first Super Bowl in 18 years. The Niners (13-4-1) will play Baltimore (13-6), coached by Harbaugh's older brother, John, in next Sunday's Super Bowl.He is certain his team is ready for the task as the 49ers seek their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy; they are 5-0 in Super Bowls."These are uncharted waters for a rookie Super Bowl coach," Harbaugh said. "But that's exciting. It's a great thrill, and we have a desire to be in uncharted waters. We always strive for that kind of challenge."Earlier in the evening, with a team flag waving from an open window of their chartered plane, the 49ers arrived in a businesslike manner. The players calmly walked off the airplane -- no video recorders or cameras, no waves to onlookers.Most of the team's veteran players disembarked first, including center Jonathan Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl three years ago with the Saints."You get to go to the Super Bowl with your childhood team, so that's something special to me," he said. "So hopefully I can find a way to win the Super Bowl with my childhood team."Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wearing a red wool cap sporting "49ers" on it, mouthed the words to a song on his headphones as he walked on the tarmac.He seemed just as relaxed 90 minutes later as he met the media."Pressure comes from a lack of preparation," said Kaepernick, who took over as the starter when Alex Smith got a concussion in November and has been sensational in keeping the job. "This is not a pressure situation. It's a matter of going out and performing."Harbaugh said the 49ers came to New Orleans on Sunday to simulate a normal week. He likened their trip to his strategy the last two seasons when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio, between Eastern games rather than return to the Bay Area.He liked the way the players and coaches bonded during that experience."Same approach," Harbaugh said. "Enjoy the moment and the preparation. I think our team enjoys that the most: the meetings, the preparation and then, especially, the competition."
Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.
Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.
Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.
Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.
"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.
"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."
The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.
Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.
But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.
"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."
Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.
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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.
Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.
Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.
"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."
Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday
With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.
Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.
Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.
The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.
The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.
And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.
"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.
"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."