Bulls praise Heat winning streak

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- A little trash talk before facing the Miami Heat has not yielded desirable results of late. So the Chicago Bulls will attempt to kill their next opponent with kindness.

The Bulls, who will try to end the Heat's 27-game winning streak Wednesday at the United Center, have made sure to give the defending NBA champions the utmost respect.

"It's an impressive streak," Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich said. "Obviously, they're playing at a high level every night. It's not an easy thing to do in this league."

That's a much different tact than the approach Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry tried when he said recently that he was "not really impressed" with the Heat and their streak.

When the Heat and Celtics met a few days later last week, Terry was on the ground looking up at a thunderous LeBron James dunk that likely will stand as one of the memorable moments of the season. The Heat rallied past the Celtics to keep the winning streak alive.

"I don't know what that's about," Bulls center Nazr Mohammed said about players not willing to give the Heat their due. "To win 27 in a row is impressive. But you know, it's about one game at a time. We know [Wednesday] is a totally new day."

The Heat's winning streak is now the second longest in NBA history and is just six away from matching the NBA record of 33 straight by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.

"When you start thinking about streaks and the pot of gold at the end, you skip steps," Mohammed said. "I hope they're thinking about the 33 or whatever and we're one of the steps they want to skip, so we can go out there and try to get us a victory."

Mohammed had it both ways. While giving respect to his opponent, he acknowledges that victory is still the goal.

"I think [the media] get caught up in [the streak] more than we do," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "For us it's about improvement and playing our best going down the stretch and hopefully be as healthy as possible.

"The important thing is not to get caught up in the hoopla and understand what goes into winning and to stay focused on those things. A big part of that is knowing your opponent well, coming out, concentrating, playing hard with an edge for 48 minutes."

Thibodeau also had nothing but praise for James and his ability to not only improve once again this season, but to practically will his team to victories during the streak.

"The thing is I felt he was unfairly criticized early in his career because he was so unique; he trusted the pass," Thibodeau said. "That's who he is his whole life. If you put two [defenders] on him he will make the right play, he will hit the open man.

"If his teammate makes the shot, everyone says how unselfish he is. And if his teammate misses the shot, they say he didn't want to take the shot. He proved all the critics wrong. He's shown that each year he's gotten better and better, and it's a credit to him."

Mohammed had equal praise for James.

"You have to give him his due," Mohammed said. "He's one of the best players in this league, if not the best. It's arguable depending on the position you like. But 6-foot-8, strong, athletic, he's knocking down shots, he can pass the ball.

"If you drew up a prototypical player that any coach would want, he would be it. He does great things for his team, but I don't want to give them all the credit because we have some great players on our team. We will go out there and we will compete, because it's a team game."