NBA: Bulls romp over Heat
Chicago dominates with rebounding, physical play
CHICAGO – Tom Thibodeau won't play the "what if?" game.
The man who could patent the phrase "we have more than enough to win" doesn't spend time looking at the Bulls-Heat games his team didn't play at full strength.
Perhaps that's why, despite playing without Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, the Bulls improved to 6-1 against the Heat at the United Center since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.
And while regular-season victories matter little compared to the back-to-back championships the Heat possess, Thursday night's 107-87 triumph could do wonders to stop the bleeding of a team that had strayed from Thibodeau's tenets in losing six of the previous seven.
The Bulls, who led by as many as 25, dominated the Heat's small-ball approach with rebounding, defense and physical play. They enjoyed advantages of 49-27 in rebounding and 24-6 in second-chance points.
They held the Heat to 41.6 percent shooting, including a mere mortal 7-for-17 effort from James.
That's the blueprint the Bulls, led by Carlos Boozer's 27 points, must follow to achieve any sort of success with their star out all season.
"We can never lose sight of how hard we have to play when you're short-handed," Thibodeau said.
Joakim Noah proved a revelation, single-handedly outrebounding the Heat 10-9 in the first half en route to 15 overall with 17 points.
Perhaps just as important, Noah played with the emotion and passion that he has lacked more often than not this season. Following one jumper, he even revived the finger guns routine he had retired after last season's shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
"It's always exciting to play the Heat," Noah said.
It's also almost always chippy. Kirk Hinrich, one of five Bulls in double figures, drew a technical foul and Norris Cole a flagrant-one when they exchanged shoves in the third quarter. Thibodeau and Udonis Haslem exchanged words after the third quarter.
The Bulls sank their first six 3-pointers in shooting 52.6 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent overall. The sixth came from Mike Dunleavy, who tracked down an offensive rebound of a missed free throw despite being shoved by James.
"The offense has been fine," Thibodeau said. "I'm more concerned with our total game and closing out games, to get that final stop or basket. It's more building the right habits and being well-balanced and being strong mentally, physically and emotionally."
James' 21 points led the Heat, who dropped their second straight and also were short-handed. Dwyane Wade remained at the team hotel with an illness. Chris Andersen didn't travel with the team because of a personal matter.
The Bulls finally took all their losing personally.