Big man Daniel Theis is turning the Bulls’ finesse game into more ground-and-pound

The forward’s ability to do the dirty work on a roster that far too often likes to keep things spotless has been just the change needed. And if the Bulls want to capture that last play-in spot, Theis’ attitude toward defense and physicality has to carry the day.

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“I think for us it’s about we gotta find our consistency, especially on the defensive end,” the Bulls’ Daniel Theis said. “That’s where I see my job. I’m a defensive anchor, I take defense really personal.’’

“I think for us it’s about we gotta find our consistency, especially on the defensive end,” the Bulls’ Daniel Theis said. “That’s where I see my job. I’m a defensive anchor, I take defense really personal.’’

Jason Behnken/AP

There’s a certain amount of physicality in every NBA game.

Then there’s what Bulls big man Daniel Theis pulled off in the second quarter Monday against the Heat.

With pesky Heat guard Gabe Vincent pulling down on his left arm in the paint, Theis corralled a high pass from Tomas Satoransky with his right hand and in one fluid motion tossed the ball in for a difficult basket.

“I thought it was a foul, too,’’ Theis said. “I asked the ref if he thinks I shoot with my left hand behind my back. But I just try to be tough down there.’’

The 6-8 bodyguard disguised as an NBA forward tries to be tough everywhere. There’s a reason the Bulls felt good about what they accomplished at the March 25 trade deadline, and it wasn’t simply the acquisition of All-Star center Nikola Vucevic.

Getting Theis from the Celtics in a three-way deal was just as important, especially because of how soft the team played far too often.

There’s still an element of finesse with these Bulls, but as Theis displayed in Miami, they also can beat opponents with good old-fashioned ground-and-pound.

“[Theis] was actually always one of the toughest matchups I faced,’’ Vucevic said. “He’s a very, very good defender, very smart. He doesn’t give you anything easy. He makes you work for everything. It’s hard to play against him. And he’s a great teammate. You see a lot of things that he did in Boston that people don’t necessarily see because it doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, or if you don’t watch games regularly, you won’t see it.’’

In other words, Theis does the dirty work.

Zach LaVine and Vucevic are All-Star-caliber players and have earned that distinction. But Theis is a blue-collar nine-to-fiver.

And with uncertainty hovering over LaVine’s return from the NBA’s health and safety protocol, the Bulls are going to need Theis’ mentality to carry the day if they want to chase down the Wizards and earn that last play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I care about the winning part,’’ Theis said of his 23-point outburst in the rematch against the Heat. “Stats don’t matter for me; I want to win. I’m just frustrated with myself when we lose games.’’

That’s because he sets a certain bar, not only for himself but for every player on the team.

So when he sees strong back-to-back defensive efforts in victories against the Cavaliers and Celtics, then a meltdown in a blowout loss to the Cavs, it means something to him.

“We go to Cleveland, we get our ass beat,’’ Theis said. “And then in the second half of the back-to-back in Charlotte, we play defense again. We gotta find our consistency, especially on the defensive end. That’s where I see my job. I’m a defensive anchor; I take defense really personal.’’

It’s good to see someone does because it can’t end with the victory against the Heat. Look at what’s ahead: at the Knicks, home against the Bucks, at the Hawks, hosting the 76ers. That’s an ugly schedule, the kind only Theis could love.

“You can see those guys always pointing to him, appreciating he’s in those positions [covering up for their mistakes],’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “Like I said from Day 1, you can always feel his presence.’’

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