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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Bulls ready for showdown with Heat

By Nick Friedell

CHICAGO -- Don't let Tom Thibodeau fool you as the Chicago Bulls get set to face the Miami Heat and the 27-game winning streak they'll bring to town on Wednesday night.

As hard as the veteran coach will try to spin the showdown as being just the next game on the schedule, don't believe him. Don't let the Bulls' players fool you, either. Don't allow them to regurgitate Thibodeau's message about this being just another game. They know all about the streak, and they would love to be the team to knock off the Heat and thwart their path to yet another championship coronation -- at least for one night.

After Sunday's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Thibodeau said the upcoming game against the Heat isn't any different because of the streak they have going.

Yeah, OK.

In his mind, the domineering coach may want to believe that, but he knows the reality is different. There's a reason why Nate Robinson was already practicing the LeBron James celebratory dance moves he wants to unleash in front of the reigning NBA MVP on Wednesday night. The Bulls want to be the team that breaks the streak, and the fact it's their hated rival only adds more fuel to the fire.

"Who doesn't want to beat Miami?" Bulls forward Jimmy Butler admitted. "One of the best records in the league, great players, but more than anything we just want to protect our home floor and win as many games as possible and just keep pushing and get that momentum going into the playoffs."

With or without the presence of the streak, Bulls forward Luol Deng believes the Heat matchup would be viewed the same within the locker room.

"If they were coming in and they don't have the record, I think it still would be a big game," Deng said.

Of course, the streak is still intact after the Heat's win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night, so Deng knows there will be more at stake than usual.

"We're going to approach it as a game that we got to win," he said. "Obviously, yeah, it's going to be in the back of our mind that they got a streak, and in the back of their mind, too. But the bottom line is just really getting a win."

With the way the Bulls have played of late, that is probably the best strategy to have. To that point, while the Bulls' players are clearly thinking about the opportunity in front of them to prevent NBA history, they're also remembering that the Heat crushed them at the United Center a month ago. They want to use revenge as a dominant emotion against James & Co.

"They blew us out last time we played, so, yeah," Robinson said. "We know what the feeling is like, and we know how to win. We beat them down there in [Miami]. So for us [to] come in, not really worry about the record, just play them for the team that they are. They're the world champs, and we're coming in trying to defend our home court, so we're going to come in, play hard, have fun and hopefully get the job done."

That's the focus Thibodeau wants his team to have, but even the man himself couldn't help but marvel at what Miami has accomplished of late. After deflecting nearly every answer about the Heat's streak for a month, Thibodeau, in the midst of discussing the 22-game winning streak the Houston Rockets put together in 2008, couldn't help but remark about what the Heat have done.

"It's pretty incredible what they're doing," Thibodeau said.

"When you win, everyone's confidence goes way up, but you're not winning just because [of confidence]. They're winning because they're playing well. That's why they're winning. Nothing has changed. That organization has always stood for hard playing, tough, defense, share the ball, play to win. They've maintained a very high standard for a long time."