The Miami Heat's blew out the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Wednesday night, but that still only gave them a 1-1 series tie. On Thursday Heat players and coaches, taking nothing for granted, stressed that the upcoming games 3 and 4 on Friday and Monday in Chicago are of utmost importance.
"It's just one game," LeBron James said. "Even though you got dominated the game before and you didn't do things right, it's still one game. You don't get two wins if you win by over 30 or over 40. You only get one game. They're back in their home building, where they're very good and we have to be ready for it."
James knows. In the 2008 playoffs, his Cleveland Cavaliers lost a game 108-72 to the Washington Wizards, but still won the series in six games.
The Heat are definitely not taking the Bulls lightly, especially at the United Center in Chicago.
"We know that they call it the 'Madhouse on Madison' for a reason," said Dwyane Wade, a Chicago-area native.
"The fans are very loud. At the end of the day, once that settles down, it's the game of basketball and you have to execute your game plan. It's going to be the little things that wins games for your team."
Still, the Bulls will probably have to play without starters Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich on Friday. Deng is still reeling from a flu and hospitalization. He attended practice Thursday, but told reporters when asked about his status, "I want to play, but I don't know what I can do."
Hinrich, meanwhile, had a second MRI taken on his injured left calf. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday the team was still awaiting results of the MRI.
The biggest question hanging over the Bulls, though, is the possible return of point guard Derrick Rose. He has not played (or even dressed) since tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2012 playoffs, but has been practicing with the Bulls for months.
If he did decide to return for Game 3, it could provide the Bulls with "a real emotional boost," in the words of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. There are plenty of reasons for Rose not to return (he could be way out of sync with his teammates, he could be concerned about his ACL's ability to hold up), but it is far from unusual for a player to return from an ACL injury after 12 months.
Game 5 is on Friday at 8 p.m.
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