When the Bulls faced a red-hot Miami Heat team two weeks ago, they not only ended their opponents’ 27-game winning streak, but LeBron James was also voicing his displeasure of the rough style even before the postgame ice packs had melted.
It’s a noted style of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and one the Knicks are prepared to face. It has been apparent in the three previous games between the teams, all Bulls victories.
“It’s been those kind of games,” Woodson said. “I thought the game we played here earlier in the season [Dec. 8] was a slow-down, knock-down game and they were able to make the plays coming down the stretch. And then at our place, it wasn’t even close. We made runs in the fourth quarter, but they jumped on us early and it wasn’t pretty.”
The Bulls weren’t about to give away any planned strategy, but nobody suggested they would stray from a formula that has worked.
Thibodeau was asked how important it was to establish a defensive presence early in a game against a Knicks team that is oozing with confidence.
“I think it’s important in every game just from this standpoint: If you allow a team to get going early, it’s much more difficult,” Thibodeau said. “These players are great, every one of them. I don’t care if you’re talking about somebody’s 13th man. That 13th man is a great player. You can’t get into this league without being a great player. You give any player in this league confidence and it’s much harder to slow them down. So you have to be right and ready from the start of the game.”
The difference this time around could end up being the Knicks’ hot three-point shooting, something that has the Bulls’ attention.
“Just run them off the line, contest every single shot,” said the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler, who has established himself this season in the wake of injuries to teammates such as Taj Gibson and Richard Hamilton. “They’re going to make some, they’re going to miss some, but when they do miss some, you have to get the rebound. We don’t want them to have another chance at another one.”