Bulls' confidence higher than ever
CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah knows the truth.
The young center knows that for as much momentum as the Bulls have built up over the past year, winning a league-high 50 games and locking up the best regular season record in the NBA two years in a row, none of it will matter if his team doesn't perform well in the postseason.
"This is what it's all about," Noah said after Thursday night's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. "This is what people remember of your year. It's not easy. It's going to be a lot of hard work. There's going to be a lot of highs and lows, but we're just going to keep fighting and hopefully that's enough to get the nice little ring at the end."
The chase for that nice little championship ring begins on Saturday afternoon when the Bulls take on the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. It's a game and a series that the Bulls really look like they are ready for, especially given that they won the season series over the Sixers this season 2-1.
"Very versatile team," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "They've got a lot of guys that can play two, three, even four different positions out there. A lot of good one on one players. They're a team. They don't have one guy they go to that's going to take 25 shots. They have a bunch of guys that can give you 15 and we got to do a good job. They're deep, they play well together, they got good chemistry and they're a fast team because they have a lot of guys that can play the two, the three, the four, the one. They game a lot; they're a very good defensive team. They get a lot of steals. They get out in transition, they're dangerous, so it poses some challenges for us but we look forward to it."
The Bulls know that Philadelphia plays the same kind of the style that Tom Thibodeau also begs of them. They know the Sixers have a lot of athleticism and they realize they will have to play with the proverbial edge in order to win.
"A real athletic team," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "We've seen them a lot this year, a lot of tough games, came down to the wire. [I'm] just looking forward to seeing what Thibs for us to study. Looking forward to just watching film [Friday] and just get ready for this push."
"It means we're dodging the tougher team," Turner told the paper. "That's what I think."
While Turner later backtracked off those statements, his words will be remembered in the Bulls' locker room.
"I love it," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said of his comments. "You've just got to give them what they ask for. It's going to be a challenge for us and it's going to be a challenge for them. And we just feel as though if we stick to our game plan and stick to how we want to play, good things can happen for us."
That's the approach the Bulls have heading into the weekend. They believe they have improved significantly over the past year and they think that maturation will show up in the postseason, especially after all the injury woes they dealt with during the regular season.
"We worked really hard, we've been through a lot this year," Noah said. "A lot of adversity, a lot of guys being injured, we fought hard throughout. It was a tough season, a lot of games, compressed season, but we put ourselves in the best position possible and now the fun really starts."