Twenty-seven game winning streak or not, the Miami isn’t taking the Bulls lightly, even in their rivals’ current banged-up state.
“These games, usually, in this building are very tough, physical. You have to endure the competition physically, but also mentally,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday after his team’s morning shootaround at the United Center. “If we don’t bring the right mentality to get into that cage fight, they can really back us up.”
“These guys have been very professional. The discipline, from our standpoint, is to focus on our process. Well, no one wants to do that. Everyone wants to come up with a different storyline. You guys have a job to do. We respect that,” he continued. “Our storyline is different. We’re trying to get better, trying to improve and for us to really do that, we have to focus on the moment, just tonight, as physical as this game can be.”
When asked about why and how their matchups with the Bulls have been so evenly matched over the past few seasons, the Heat scoffed at the line of questioning, showing how much they respect their opponent.
“It’s a good team,” Windy City native Dwyane Wade said. “Chicago has been a good team and obviously it’s a tough place to play.”
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Teammate Chris Bosh concurred: “They’re a good team. Usually, it’s always down to the wire and initially, in the first year, we were doing a lot of soul searching and trying to get our chemistry correct, but this is a good team here. They work hard, they’re going to play their style of basketball, we’re going to try to play ours and they always play good defense and teams that play good defense, it’s always going to be a little closer at the end, so it’s always going to be a tough battle against these guys.”
After falling to the Bulls in Miami back in January, on their last trip to Chicago, the Heat blew out their hosts with a defensive performance they’d like to emulate Wednesday.
“It was pretty good. I don’t know if it was our best, but we did a good job, we felt. We turned them over a lot, we did okay rebounding,” Wade explained. “It was a great second-half defensive effort for us. We started the game off doing the things that we talked about doing in the shootaround and that always feels good, that always gets you going. When you talk about doing something, you go out and do it from the first play of the game, that gets you into it.”
James added: “To be able to turn them over 27 times, that means that we were very active defensively and we were in tune with our defensive principles, so it was a good showing for us.”
The visitors don’t expect the Bulls, even in their battered state, to be intimidated Wednesday; in fact, they believe they’ll be just as physical, even with injuries to starters Marco Belinelli and All-Star center Joakim Noah.
“It doesn’t change their style. Come on, we know better than that. They’ve dealt with injuries for the last two years and they’ve done that better than anybody,” Spoelstra said. “We haven’t played an opponent as physical as we can expect tonight. We haven’t had that in a few games, so if we don’t anticipate that and really brace for that, and we get caught, it has the potential to be different.”
James chimed in: “That’s just their nature. I expect nothing less.”