Skip to content
Just call them the 'Baby Broomers'
His business suit had already been ditched for his preferred sweats as Scott Skiles prowled the postgame locker room, looking for backs to slap and hands to shake.
His casual attire couldn't mask a more formal revelation.
"One of my weaknesses is I tend not to enjoy the wins enough," Skiles said, a sly smile crossing his face. "I think I'll enjoy this one."
His players were pulling an anti-Skiles, calmly exchanging hugs and nods of recognition for their historic achievement.
With Sunday afternoon's convincing 92-79 victory over the Miami Heat, the Bulls became the first team in NBA history to sweep a defending champion in the first round of a best-of-seven playoff series.
In advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals to face the Pistons, the Bulls ended two seasons of first-round frustration and several previous seasons of futility.
Close to nine years and exactly 450 regular-season and eight playoff losses have passed since Michael Jordan drained his game-winning jumper to beat the Utah Jazz on June 14, 1998.
But rarely has history been met with such brief and subdued celebration, or, as veteran P.J. Brown termed it, "contained excitement."
Dispatching a defending champion is one thing. Winning a title is another.
"Look, we're happy we won," guard Kirk Hinrich said, memories of his 59-loss rookie season even more distant. "It's a great feeling because we've come a long way since I've been here. And everybody is happy with the effort we've played with all series because we've grown up as a team and really matured.
"But we have bigger goals than this. Hopefully this is just a step."
The Bulls took this one with grace and toughness, beating the Heat in virtually every phase.
Luol Deng continued his outstanding play with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Ben Gordon wouldn't be denied in reaching 24 points.
Ben Wallace continued to validate his $60 million signing with 13 points, 11 rebounds, shockingly effective free-throw shooting and another honest day's defensive work on Shaquille O'Neal.
Teammates like Chris Duhon aided a foul-plagued Hinrich as the Bulls continued to smother Dwyane Wade, who committed seven turnovers and averaged nearly six in the series.
The Bulls even tied a franchise postseason record with just five turnovers.
"I feel we grew up a lot over these four games because nothing seemed to faze us," Skiles said.
"We looked in every game like we knew we were going to win. That's how you have to present yourself. I'm just really proud of them."
The Bulls maintained their confidence and composure despite having Hinrich and Wallace in first-half foul trouble and allowing the Heat to hit its first six shots.
They stayed poised even after Wade scored on a three-point play with six-tenths of a seconds left in the first half for a four-point halftime deficit.
And when they clanked 11 of their first 14 second-half shots, they opted for perspective, not panic.
"I think everybody just really relaxed," Gordon said. "We all got comfortable and relied on each other. It reflected in our play. Nobody tried to do anything on his own.
"Whenever we got down this series, we huddled up and talked to each other and tried to calm each other down. We got confidence from that, knowing we were there for each other. That helped us win the series."
This bonding began back in November after the Bulls dropped to 3-9 and Wallace instigated his silly headband controversy. It carried them through a torrid regular-season finish, the brutal seed-dropping loss to the Nets and in gut-check moments against the Heat.
When Deng drained a baseline jumper as part of a 13-2 third-quarter run, the Bulls took their first lead of the game with 2 minutes 44 seconds remaining.
When Duhon swished a three-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in the quarter, the Bulls led 68-64 and the momentum had swung.
By the time Andres Nocioni—gritty with 11 points on a gimpy leg—made a three-pointer and a circus shot on consecutive possessions, it felt like the Bulls' day.
Wallace confirmed this, tipping in a Nocioni miss with 4:58 remaining to jump-start a game-closing 14-2 run and turn a 78-77 nailbiter into a laugher.
Deng added the cherry on the sundae when he stole the ball from Wade and scored on a breakaway layup with 3:52 left, drawing Wade's fourth foul.
The Bulls just kept coming—all series long.
"We felt like we could win the series," said Hinrich, who touched off controversy beforehand with such confident remarks. "If you don't have confidence, you might as well not show up.
"I wasn't doing any trash-talking. But I do feel like 'the team' won the series."
Just to remind, the Bulls view the victory as a step.
"We started off this season a little rocky, a little rough," Wallace said. "It would've been easy for guys to say we aren't as good as we claimed to be or that everybody thought we were going to be.
"But these guys kept playing, kept fighting and pulling for each other. We found ways to make it happen.
"Any time you have a group of guys who believe they can win, good things can happen."