NBA Playoffs 2011, Chicago vs. Miami: Your BR Bulls Insider in the Locker Room

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NBA Playoffs 2011, Chicago vs. Miami: Your BR Bulls Insider in the Locker Room
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The atmosphere at the United Center was electric Sunday night as the Chicago Bulls faced the Miami Heat in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals.

When the public address announcer said, "And from Chicago..." you couldn't even hear Derrick Rose's name as the crowd drowned it out, reminiscent of championship days in the past with some guy named Michael Jordan.

That wasn't the only thing that resembled those past championship teams as the Bulls unleashed their new version of the "Doberman Defense" on the unsuspecting Heat.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade disappeared as the swarming Bulls' defense held them to a combined 33 points, with James going 5-for-15 and Wade 7-for-17 from the floor.They also kept them off the line as they each shot only four free throws in the game.

The Bulls out-rebounded Miami 45-33, including 19-6 on the offensive boards leading to a 31-8 advantage in second chance points and a 103-82 thumping of the Heat.

I had the good fortune to have a media pass for the game, and a chance to ask questions in the conference room before and after the game, and the post-game locker room.

 

Before the Game

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

BR: Coach, you struggled in the first game against Indiana and lost the first game to Atlanta, and now you're stepping up in competition and Miami seems very confident right now. How important is it that you win Game 1 today?

TOM THIBODEAU: Well it's the game in front of you, so you concentrate on what's in front of you. You don't look back, you're not looking ahead, so hopefully you prepared well, you learned and we're ready to go.

 

After the Game

BR: Tom, you really defeated them on the boards tonight. You out-rebounded them by 12 rebounds altogether, and 13 on the offensive boards. You outscored them on second-chance points 31-8. Can you talk about that a little bit?

TOM THIBODEAU: I thought the second half, our effort picked up. The first half I thought they were hurting us on the boards.

Our guys up front; they're very active. I thought Joakim made great effort to get to the ball. Carlos the same. Taj, Omer. That's huge.

A lot of that is the result of the penetration from Derrick. Derrick has the ability to break people down for us, and our bigs are very active.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

 

BR: Coach, LeBron and Wade weren't aggressive attacking the basket. Between them they had eight free throws the whole game. Was the Bulls defense responsible for that?

ERIC SPOELSTRA: A little bit of both. You have to give them credit where it's due. That's what they've done all season long, protect the paint, protect the rim, and keep teams off the free throw line. 

I think in the second half we got away from what we normally do, and the ball started to stick and hold. It's got to move. It's got to get from side-to-side, and you have to execute some triggers.

They were switching some of those pick-and-rolls, which stagnated our offense a little bit. But I think our minds really were affected by those second-chance points and them getting that double-digit lead.

BR: How important is it for you to win the next game and not go back to Miami down 2-0?

ERIC SPOELSTRA: The important thing is that we bounce back. We're not thinking about anything else other than getting ourselves right and ready for Game 2.

We've been under a lot of adversity this year, and that's what we have to focus on right now. In the playoffs, there aren't good performances or bad performances, it's wins and losses.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

You have to make adjustments and move on, and we'll focus on Game 2 and that's it.

 

BR: Derrick, your team had tough first games against Indiana and Atlanta. Today you came out and played really well against Miami. How does that help your confidence for the rest of the series with the win today?

DERRICK ROSE: I think it should help us out a lot. But we still have a lot of work to do. We're going into practice just closing down the middle when LeBron and Chris Bosh do pick-and-roll.

Chris Bosh getting fouled... he had too many layups. Getting out to their shooters where they had open looks. We could work on a lot of things about that on that game.

 

BR: Chris, you had a big game tonight, but LeBron and Wade were quiet. Was that by design, or was that because the Bulls were shutting them off and you had to take over?

CHRIS BOSH: With Dwyane and LeBron, they're going to create a lot of attention. This is a good defensive team. They're really going to challenge them by loading the strong side when they have isos, when they have the ball, they're going to double them in the post.

You know, they're going to make them distribute at least early on. We have to look at where we fell short as a team for Game 1, and come back with a better approach.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

 

In the Locker Room

BR: Taj, you came out charged up tonight. Is there going to be any carryover into the next game, or is every game different?

TAJ GIBSON: Every game is going to be different. They're going to adjust, we're going to adjust, we've got a long way to go.

BR: How important is it to win the next game and go to Miami up 2-0, with what the mindset will be with the Heat if that happens?

TAJ GIBSON: We're not worried about that right now. We're just going to go to practice and work on our game, and see what Thibs has prepared for us tomorrow.

BR: Is there anything you think you can improve on with the way you played today?

TAJ GIBSON: Just playing solid for a longer period of time, less turnovers, and just talking a little bit more.

 

BR: Carlos, you had a great game today, you beat them on the boards by 12, and by 13 on the offensive boards, and you outscored them 31-8 on second-chance points. Could you talk about that a little bit?

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

CARLOS BOOZER: We just did what we usually do. We've been a good rebounding team all season. It's one of the strengths of our team.

BR: You seem like you were really energized today, and that you have more spring. Are you feeling better right now?

CARLOS BOOZER: Yea, my foot is a lot better. It's getting better every day thanks to the training staff. They do a great job of rehabbing with me everyday.

BR: What do you think you have to do the next game to keep the momentum with the way you played today?

CARLOS BOOZER: We've got to do what we usually do. We've got to play Chicago basketball, play good defense, rebound, share the ball on offense, take good shots and take care of the ball and keep them out of transition as much as possible.

BR: Chris Bosh went off tonight, but you held LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in check. They weren't attacking the basket and had only eight free throws between them. What did you do to stop them tonight?

CARLOS BOOZER: We did a good job of making them see bodies and not give them too many easy baskets. When we started the game off, they both got a couple of steals and dunks and as the game went along, we did a better job of taking care of the ball and did a better job of keeping them out of the paint, but they're two great players. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We've got to expect them to play better in Game 2 and we've got to play better in Game 2.

BR: It seemed at the start of the game you guys were a little hyped up a bit, you had a few turnovers, and it seemed like you were rushing a few shots. After that, you really calmed down and played your game the rest of the way. Do you think you just settled in at that point?

CARLOS BOOZER: I think we played better as the game went along. I would agree with that. I think in the first half we played pretty good, decent.

In the second half I thought our defense was much better. I think our offense was much better in the second half, as well. We shot the ball pretty well and we hit big shots, and we did a good job of rebounding the ball throughout the course of the game.

I think as the game went on, we played better and better.

 

Chicago Bulls fans had to be thrilled with the way the team played Sunday night, and can only hope for more of the same on Wednesday.

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