They were already prepared for it, like they’ve been prepared to play with a man down all season long as the Bulls officially ruled rookie forward Nikola Mirotic out of Game 3 with a left knee strain.
And it seems likely he’ll miss Game 4 Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee as well, as he didn’t do any contact activity at practice, doing some light shooting on the side and activity on a bike, but nothing significant.
“We’re prepared both ways,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau on the possibility they’ll be without Mirotic all weekend. “That’s the way we have to go into every game. He could play in the next one. It could be two games. I don’t know how many games. He said he feels a lot better today than he did yesterday, which is a good sign.”
It appears Kirk Hinrich will make his return for Game 3 in Milwaukee, one healthy body back while Mirotic takes a seat. Of course the two aren’t equal in importance, position or role.
“Obviously he’s been a big part of our team, coming off the bench the second half of the year,” said Mike Dunleavy of Mirotic. “You know, it will be an adjustment. We’re going to miss that firepower, but I think we get Kirk back and we have guys that can fill in hopefully.
“I mean (Mirotic)’s a unique player, so can’t really duplicate exactly what he does, but we’ve got guys that can fill in and hopefully hold down the fort.’’
Mirotic got into a couple scrums with Bucks center Zaza Pachulia and strained his knee diving for the ball late in Game 2. So far in the series, he’s averaging 6.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in 18 minutes.
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Wanting to control the glass has been a chief concern for Thibodeau so he’s gone more to Taj Gibson in this series than Mirotic, as Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler have handled the bulk of the scoring responsibilities.
Gibson battled foul trouble in Game 2, picking up three quick ones in five minutes but grabbed 11 in 25 minutes in Game 1.
“Taj will get more minutes and he needs to get going. We'll just work with what we have like we have ben doing all season long,” forward Pau Gasol said. “(Nikola) adds a lot of versatility to our frontcourt. the floor is gonna be more open when he's out there because of his shooting ability. I'm sure we'll miss some of his stuff.”