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Chicago must battle back once again

Bulls just have to suck it up

Published: Sunday, April 21, 2013 10:48 p.m. CST
Caption
(Seth Wenig)
The Bulls' Joakim Noah (13) fouls the Nets' Brook Lopez during Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Saturday in New York. The Bulls are looking to bounce back tonight after a lopsided loss in the opener. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK – Derrick Rose won’t be walking through the Barclays Center tunnel. Well, at least in uniform, he won’t.

Neither will a plantar fasciitis-free Joakim Noah, a non-knee-brace-wearing Taj Gibson, nor Kirk Hinrich without a bruised left thigh.

Nope, if the Bulls are to even their best-of-seven series with the Nets today – after Saturday’s 106-89 loss in Game 1 – they will have to do so with the resilience that defined their season, and an adjustment in intensity and execution, not health.

“A lot of it is just doing what we’ve been doing all year,” Luol Deng said. “We’ve had a lot of guys out and now a lot of guys back, and sometimes – not that you give up – but you tend to relax a bit thinking you’re deeper. Sometimes, when you have those guys out you play harder. We’ve got to have the mindset of playing like how we’ve been.”

That starts, of course, with defense and rebounding. The Bulls atypically allowed 55.8 percent shooting in Game 1 and were outrebounded by the Nets 39-35. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Noah felt “relatively good for where he is” and, barring an unforeseen setback, will start Game 2. Hinrich also will start.

But with Noah limited by his painful condition and Gibson battling foul trouble, the Bulls played small in stretches and were burned by it. Perhaps there will be more Nazr Mohammed or a more mobile Noah on Monday. Certainly there will be Thibodeau’s defensive demands.

“We got hurt when we went big, too, in the second quarter,” Thibodeau said. “We have to be tied together better, more of a multiple-effort mentality. Oftentimes, the initial part was done correctly and the second and third part wasn’t, so we can’t be inconsistent.

“We have to be able to count on our rebounding, too, and our rebounding was extremely poor. Especially against this team, what has to be there is rebounding and defense.”

Speaking of defense, the Bulls played some of that off the court following a team meeting and film session at their luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan. Noah gutting out 13-plus minutes while extremely hobbled raised hackles for an increasingly impatient fan base regarding Rose, whom Thibodeau all but ruled out for the playoffs Saturday.

The film session highlighted another slow start – a problem area of late – and proved fittingly painful.

“We’re supposed to be a defensive team and we can’t even get in the right position on the ball?” Jimmy Butler said. “Our help-side [defense] was brutal. Hell, I knew we were in trouble, and I had hardly ever played in the playoffs before.

“You don’t ever want to get your [butt] kicked on national TV, not to even mention in a playoff game. I feel like that gives us that willpower to do what we know. We came here to do one thing and that was to get a game.”

Thibodeau doesn’t do Twitter, but he did address the social media anger directed at Rose, who hasn’t played since tearing his left ACL on April 28.

“It’s not bothersome because I know all that he’s putting into it and I know who he is,” Thibodeau said. “I know his character, and he’s done amazing things for our organization. He’s doing all he can. That’s all you can ever ask a guy to do. There’s always going to be some negativity, but I think the vast majority of it is very positive.

“As Dr. [Brian] Cole said from Day One, it was going to be 8 months to a year. You hope for the best, plan for the worst. We don’t want him out there until he’s completely comfortable, and he’s not yet. So that’s part of what we expected. As long as he continues to work the way he has, I’m good with it.

“Everyone’s recovery is different, and you don’t want someone out there who’s not comfortable. And if they’re still injured, we don’t want them out there either. When he’s ready to go, he’ll play.”

Teammates support Rose.

“Everybody in this room has heart,” Deng said.

Teammates also appreciate what Noah is trying to do against All-Star Brook Lopez.

“It’s hard to run around when your foot hurts every time you step on it,” Carlos Boozer said. “But he’s doing the best he can.”

Game 2

• Bulls at Nets, 7 p.m. today

TV/Radio: CSN, TNT/1000 AM

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