|Bulls take big step with Heat sweep|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 30 April 2007 10:21|
CHICAGO (AP) -The Chicago Bulls had just swept defending champion Miami, and guard Kirk Hinrich already was looking ahead.|
Not too far, though.
Beating the Heat was a huge step for a franchise that had not won a playoff series since Michael Jordan buried a jumper and the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 finals. Now, the Bulls' attention turns toward their second-round matchup with the Detroit Pistons.
``We have bigger goals than this,'' Hinrich said after the Bulls beat Miami 92-79 in Game 4 Sunday to complete the sweep. ``Hopefully, this is just a step. We feel good, we'll enjoy this, but we realize that we are still in this. We to have focus and get ready for a great and experienced Detroit team.''
The Bulls will start preparing for the Pistons on Tuesday, when they return to practice after taking a day off.
Chicago controlled the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference until finishing the regular season with a loss to New Jersey. That dropped the Bulls to the fifth seed and into a first-round matchup against the Heat, but what looked like trouble turned out to be rather easy.
Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade both had foul trouble in Game 1, and although Wade led a late charge in the opener, neither superstar really asserted himself in the series. O'Neal was anything but a dominant force, averaging 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds. Wade averaged 23.5 points but was not his usual explosive self due to a sore knee and an injured shoulder that might require surgery in the offseason.
The stars in the first round were Chicago's Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.
Deng averaged 26.3 points and 9.0 rebounds after a breakout regular season. And Gordon averaged 25.5 points.
Now, the franchise is in a place it hasn't been since the 1990s, when Jordan and Scottie Pippen led it to six championships.
``For a lot of us, it is our first time getting to the second round,'' guard Chris Duhon said. ``We are definitely excited, but we know we have another tough task ahead of us. We have to start focusing and getting ready for Detroit.''
It took six straight losing seasons, then first-round exits against Washington in 2005 and Miami last year, to get back to this spot, but the Bulls expected to be here.
They signed Wallace away from Detroit last summer with the idea of contending, and they established themselves as the season wore on, absorbing a few bumps along the way. There was a 3-9 start and a silly controversy when Wallace violated a team rule by wearing a headband in a game.
``At that point in time it would have been easier for guys to throw in a towel and say we aren't as good as we claim to be,'' Wallace said. ``These guys kept playing and kept fighting.''
They were 29-25 at the All-Star break, but still finished the regular season with 49 wins. They figured out how to win on the road, taking nine of their final 14 after starting 9-18, and they kept the momentum going in the first round.
They had lost six straight road playoff games since Jordan beat the Jazz, before winning two at Miami.
``I definitely thought we could get one, but after how we played Friday, I thought we would have a good chance of taking the game (Sunday),'' veteran forward P.J. Brown said. ``It just feels good to get this series over with. I'm glad that we are moving on and now we can concentrate on Detroit.''
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