DEERFIELD, Ill. — It started with the flu, and turned into a hospital stay. There were terrible headaches and weakness. Just walking was a chore.
All at the worst time for Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls.
The All-Star forward made an appearance at Chicago’s practice facility on Thursday, but it was clear from his drawn appearance and measured tone that he might not be able to make it back in time to play in the Bulls’ rugged postseason series against the Miami Heat.
Looking for reinforcements for its depleted roster, Chicago is going to have to wait a while for Deng.
“I don’t know. I want to play, but I don’t know what I can do,” he said. “I just, I haven’t done anything.”
Deng joined his teammates for the film session covering Wednesday night’s 115-78 drubbing by the Heat that evened the series heading into Game 3 in Chicago on Friday night. He also got on the court and took a few jumpers, but that was all he could handle.
“Still day to day. He’s feeling a little bit better,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ll see tomorrow.”
While Chicago was taking stock of its injuries — Kirk Hinrich had a second MRI on his injured left calf, and Derrick Rose was the “same,” according to Thibodeau — Miami was bracing for the first game of the series at the United Center. It’s the Heat’s first trip to Chicago since a 101-97 loss on March 27 snapped their 27-game winning streak.
“We know that they call it the ‘Madhouse on Madison’ for a reason,” said Miami guard Dwyane Wade, a Chicago-area native. “The fans are very loud. At the end of the day, once that settles down, it’s the game of basketball and you have to execute your game plan. It’s going to be the little things that wins games for your team.”
The Heat did everything right in Game 2, running away from the Bulls after a surprising 93-86 loss in the series opener on Monday night. A 62-20 run was more than enough to wipe away the residue from Miami’s first playoff loss, and MVP LeBron James had only three points in the tidal wave — a scary statistic for Chicago, and there’s more.
The Game 2 blowout was the 41st time that an NBA team won a playoff game by 35 or more points. In the previous 40 occasions, the team on top of the blowout went on to win the series 36 times.