|Bulls know from experience that 2-0 lead can disappear|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 25 April 2007 10:52|
A 2-0 lead?
The Chicago Bulls had one against Washington in the first round and blew it. And now, they have one against defending champion Miami.
The Bulls remember what happened the last time they led 2-0 in a playoff series, and they know what happened the last time the Heat dropped the first two. They're in a good position as this first-round series shifts to Miami for Game 3, but they realize they're only halfway to advancing.
``We have a little confidence right now, but they are the champions,'' Nocioni said.
Both teams know 2-0 leads can be shaky, even if the statistics say otherwise.
Home teams that have taken the first two games of a best-of-seven series have gone on to win 95 percent of the time, but the Heat and Bulls are among the exceptions to that rule.
Miami dropped two at Dallas in last year's final before winning the next four to capture the championship. And the Bulls took the first two at home against Washington in the opening round two years ago before losing in six games.
So it was no surprise when the Heat's Alonzo Mourning said this after Chicago took Game 2 by 107-89 on Tuesday: ``We're in trouble if we lose at home. When we lose at home, that's when you come back and talk to me and I will tell you we're in trouble.''
Nor was it shocking to hear this from Chicago's Luol Deng on Wednesday: ``They've been in this position. Some other teams might find it harder to deal with that situation, but they've been through it before.''
The Heat are having a tough time dealing with Deng and Ben Gordon, and Miami's two superstars can't seem to get into the flow.
Dwyane Wade hasn't been his usual explosive self, thanks to a dislocated left shoulder that caused him to miss 23 games down the stretch and knee tendinitis that recently acted up. Shaquille O'Neal had a dominant first quarter in Game 1, but has since been a nonfactor.
Gordon had 27 points on Tuesday, after scoring 24 and delivering 11 assists in the opener. Deng scored 14 of his 26 in the fourth quarter, after scoring 33 points in Game 1. And they've had help.
Nocioni, P.J. Brown, Ben Wallace, Kirk Hinrich and Thabo Sefolosha all have made key contributions in a series in which Chicago has beaten the Heat on the boards (98-80) and with quick passes. The result has been open shots.
Although they look like a team poised to advance, the Bulls remember what happened the last time they were in this position.
``We were just getting our feet wet,'' Gordon said. ``I don't think guys will let that happen again. Everybody's a lot more aware of where we're at right now and realizing what we have to do.''
Two years ago, the Bulls were in the playoffs for the first time since two guys named Jordan and Pippen loaded up on championships, and they were a young team that learned how quickly momentum can swing. They left for Washington thinking they were in control, and then everything changed.
Nocioni took a shot to the groin in a collision with the Wizards' Larry Hughes in the third quarter of Game 3, and the Bulls' pain continued.
``We won the first two games, and we believed Washington was losing their confidence and they don't want to win the third game,'' Nocioni said. ``When you're young, you think something and it's not right. But you don't know because you need someone to tell you. You need to live the situation.''
Deng said, ``I hope we learned from it. We have to show up and play like we learned from it. ... We've been in this situation and let it go, so we've got to do a good job of not giving it up.''
They're older now, and wiser.
They pushed Miami to six games in the first round last year, then added veterans in Wallace and Brown to go with a young, but experienced, core.
Brown wasn't thrilled when New Orleans agreed to trade him in early July to the Bulls for Tyson Chandler. Sure, he wanted to go to a contender, but he didn't see one in Chicago. His mind changed a week later when the Bulls signed Wallace - a loud message that they were serious about contending in the Eastern Conference. And Brown's confidence in his new teammates grew as soon as training camp started.
``Once I got here and was able to be around the guys and get into training camp, I was like this team is not as young as I thought,'' Brown said. ``I believed they were ready to go to the next level, they want to take the next step. They want to move past the first round.''
Deng had a breakout season and has been even better in the playoffs. So has Gordon.
Two years ago, it was all new to them. Now, Gordon thinks it's time to drop the ``Baby Bulls'' moniker.
``I think it's time we move out of that role and start to look at ourselves as contenders,'' he said.