You can place Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich in sharp-looking suits on the bench. You can keep Luol Deng in Chicago as he recovers from a spinal tap.
Carlos Boozer can be largely ineffective, Nate Robinson can leave briefly with a bloody lip that needed stitches to close and Marco Belinelli’s jumper can be AWOL.
But as long as the Bulls have five bodies left, the competitive culture that Tom Thibodeau has instilled and his players execute will lead to what happened Monday night at American Airlines Arena.
The Bulls grabbed Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals, downing a Heat team that had won 41 of its previous 43 games 93-86. And they shouted to the mountaintops one more time for anyone who stopped listening: They’re not going away quietly.
Robinson, who finished with 27 points and nine assists, tied the game at 83-83 with two free throws with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left. Chris Bosh scored on a power move. After Taj Gibson nearly airballed a baseline jumper, LeBron James split two free throws for a three-point Heat lead.
But Joakim Noah grabbed an offensive rebound and passed to Marco Belinelli, who tied the game with a 3-pointer. Bosh missed a jumper and Robinson sank his from up top with 1:18 remaining. After Dwyane Wade missed a 3-pointer, Robinson drove the lane and scored on a scoop shot with 45.5 seconds left.
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Photos credit : USA Today Sports Images