After a lackluster Game 2 in which they scored 75 points -- 29 in the second half -- on 34 percent shooting and lost homecourt advantage in an 85-75 loss, the Chicago Bulls should still feel confident about their NBA Finals hopes heading into Games 3 and 4 in Miami.
The Miami Heat, too, will be ready to go after what they probably feel wasn't their best shot at the Bulls. Yet they still come back home, to the warmth of South Beach, even in the best-of-seven series 1-1.
For the Bulls, the task is simple: score the basketball. They had a tough going in Game 2, bricking 11 of 37 shots in the second half and scored a franchise playoff-low 10 points in the fourth quarter. That won't get it done, though the Bulls know that and have been hard at work in the three days off between games.
"How was it having a day off? I think it was much needed. Mentally, it
takes a toll, but this is what it's all about. There's going to be
highs, there's going to be lows," Bulls center Joakim Noah said on Friday. "We hadn't had a day off in a long time.
Just to get away a little bit from the game and come back today and
have a great practice. We're excited about Sunday."
Chicagoans are excited about Sunday, too. It's really an odd format the NBA is implementing with the Eastern and Western Conference finals. The Bulls/Heat played Game 1 on Sunday, May 15, though had to wait until May 18 for Game 2 and Sunday, May 22 for Game 3 (7:30 CST, TNT).
On the flip side, the Oklahoma City Thunder/Dallas Mavericks have gone every other day: Game 1 on Tuesday, May 17, Game 2 on May 19 and Game 3 on Saturday, May 21.
It's left the Bulls and fans anxious for Sunday's tilt in Miami, the same feeling Heat fans had waiting through Games 1 and 2. Although it doesn't hamper either team, the Heat seem to be the team getting the minor edge with the four-day layoff as Udonis Haslem, 30, who played a major role in Game 2, will get some time to rest up for Game 3, a big game for both teams.
You can't blame the NBA, though. This Bulls/Heat series is driving up the revenues for all parties and it's only smart for the NBA to draw out the series.
The top-seeded Bulls have gone 44 games without back-to-back losses, a feat that's on the line as they take their talents to South Beach. They're going to Miami with some questions, though.
No, these Bulls won't be partying, though their play on the court will have to improve if they want to take a game in Miami to steal back homecourt advantage. Then maybe there will be some time to party.
As much as we'd like to think the Bulls can take a game in Miami, it's not a guarantee. The Heat are 6-0 at home and have closed out two opponents in Miami. The crowd may be late arriving, and it certainly shows with the Heat's slow starts at times, but that hasn't prevented them from, as Charlie Sheen says, winning.
This much is certain, if the Bulls fail to take a game in Miami, come back to Chicago down 3-1, the chances they win the series are very, very bleak. It isn't impossible, but that isn't a situation you'd want to put yourself with the Heat, who are taking a 1-1 split through the first two games heading home despite averaging a meager 83.5 points per game versus the Bulls.
"Nobody's thinking about suntans right now," Kyle Korver said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "We're thinking about Game 3."
The Bulls have had success in Game 3 through the first two rounds, defeating the Indiana Pacers 88-84 and Atlanta Hawks 99-82. In both instances, the Bulls took the series lead (3-0 versus the Pacers, 2-1 versus the Hawks) and gave themselves a cushion into Game 4. The Bulls are 0-2 in Game 4 during the playoffs.
"This is going to be a crazy game," Derrick Rose said. "They're going to have a
lot of confidence. But some way, somehow, we have to get this win. We
have to have more intensity than them and play way more aggressive."
It just seems like in games the Bulls feel like they need, talk as if they need, they win. They know Game 2 was very winnable, but have no ones but themselves to blame for the loss. Simply, they couldn't hit a shot to save a life.
Rose was putrid in defeat, scoring 21 points on 7-for-23 shooting. He missed plenty of makeable shots, but the Bulls credited the Heat's defense for his poor showing. Do layup misses need to be credited to the other team?
"You have to give their defense credit. It's 73 73 with 4:36 to go, and,
you know, it's a make or miss league. He's got to be aggressive," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We have
to play with more pace.. Derrick had some shots that he
LeBron James' 29 points led the Heat, who got a balanced attack, receiving 24 points from Dwyane Wade and 13 from Udonis Haslem, who really stole the show with his breakout performance.
"He gets the game ball," James said to TNT's Craig Sager after Game 2.