It's happening two years later, one round earlier and without Derrick Rose. But the Bulls earned their rematch with the Heat. They did so by defeating the Nets 99-93 Saturday night at Barclays Center to win Game 7 of their first-round NBA playoff series, following a familiar script to do so. One man, Kirk Hinrich, sat again to injury. Another, seldom-used Marquis Teague, stepped up to deliver crucial minutes. Another man, Luol Deng, remained in Chicago and spent part of Saturday in a hospital. So Marco Belinelli scored 24 points and seldom-used Daequan Cook, who had played just 66 seconds all series, joined Teague in a first-half run. Is South Beach ready for Joakim Noah? He memorably backed up Thursday's postgame declaration that "we're going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn and we're going to win" with a monster game of 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. Every eye-rolling cliche that emanates from Tom Thibodeau's mouth came true in one gritty effort. We have more than enough to win with. Next man up. We need everybody. "That game is what our season was all about. We had ups and downs but still persevered," Hinrich said. "We had a very tough year as far as dealing with injuries. And yet throughout, we've been real pros." And now comes the Heat, against whom the Bulls split four regular-season games this season. "We know how good Miami is," Thibodeau said. "We're going to have to be at our best." Taj Gibson just smiled. "That's our rivalry," he said. "Words can't express how bad we want to beat them. Heart can't beat great teams like the Heat. We have to have guys really healthy and playing at their highest." Thibodeau wouldn't speculate whether Hinrich or Deng would play in Monday's Game 1 at Miami. The Bulls, who won a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history after six failures, somehow overcame their loss by building a 17-point halftime lead behind Noah's emotion.
Bring on the Heat
Chicago Tribune | May 5