DEERFIELD, Ill. -- No matter how rugged the rest of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals become the Chicago Bulls have decided to stay true to themselves and their coach.
They aren't going to change their style of play against the Miami Heat and they aren't going to apologize for being physical.
"I expect the physical nature to continue (Monday)," Bulls center Joakim Noah said confidently after Sunday's practice. "It's our only chance."
After a slew of technical fouls and ejections and a war of words that led to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau being hit with a $35,000 fine Sunday by the league office for criticizing the officiating in Game 3, the Bulls don't seem to care that games have at times turned to near brawls and shoving matches.
"We’re a hard-nosed, tough guy team," Bulls forward Jimmy Butler said. "That’s what we label ourselves as; that’s what we pride ourselves on. We’re going to come out swinging; we’ll come out fighting.”
That's really the only way the Bulls know how to play. With Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (calf) likely out again in Game 4, Thibodeau and his team know full well that they have to play with the same edge and intensity if they want to even up the series.
The Bulls take pride in their "tough" label but they take even more pride in the fact that they don't fear Miami. Thibodeau and his team aren't scared of LeBron James and they have to remind themselves of that on Monday no matter which way the whistles go.
Butler and his teammates have spoken openly about not allowing the refs to dictate their play in this series -- now he and the Bulls know it's up to them to enforce Thibodeau's attacking game plan.
“Don’t give up any layups," he said. "I feel like when they get into the paint, we’ve got to make them earn it from the free throw line. If we do foul, we’ve got to make sure it’s not an ‘and one.’ I feel like they’ve been getting into the paint entirely too easy.”
The irony for the Bulls is that for as much attention as the physicality in this series keeps getting, they don't feel like it's much different than usual. It's the playoffs and they know that the scrutiny and attention are heightened because of the spotlight -- and they are just fine with that.
"I think it's very normal," Noah said. "You look at playoff basketball, it's always physical. You look at every series, it's physical. It's just when you have somebody like LeBron James coming at you full speed, yeah, there's a lot of contact. It's just part of the game."