CLEVELAND The Bulls 10th consecutive victory over the Central Division rival Cavaliers wasnt flawless. But after an emotional loss to Indiana at home Tuesday, its exactly what they needed.
I thought the first quarter was huge, getting off to a quick start, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. The part of the game that I thought we probably could have done a lot better in was the end of the second quarter, but other than that, we had a really good rhythm going, I thought we had a good pace going, I thought the defense was very good and were still striving to be a 48-minute team. We know that theres a lot of things we have to improve upon.
Luol Deng added: Weve been trying to do that all year. It takes time. I think were getting there. The game last night, I thought we played great not towards the end, we could have made better plays but it takes a while. But hopefully, well get there. Well just keep striving for it and when you lose, its hard to see the good stuff youre doing. Now, when you win, its easier to recognize it.
All these new guys are going to get better. Theyre new to the system and weve still got a lot of games. As long as guys keep getting better, thats what its really about.
Joakim Noah explained it even more succinctly: Our coach is Tom Thibodeau, so youve got to stay focused.
Overall, I think we came with good energy tonight. It was a good win for us, he continued. They played very hard, theyre a hard-playing team, they rebound the ball real well and every game we play, every game we win is hard-fought. Marco played great for us tonight and we need that. We needed everybody to step up.
With the way Marco Belinelli played, as well as Noah and Deng both having excellent outings, it was easy to overlook Kirk Hinrichs night. But the point guard was quietly solid, playing great defense, he forcing Cavaliers counterpart Jeremy Pargo, starting in place of injured Cleveland star Kyrie Irving, into 3-of-12 shooting. Pargo, a Chicago native and the younger brother of former Bull Jannero got a technical foul late in the game for getting into verbally with Deng and Noah after throwing a ball, whether intentionally or not, into the face of Belinelli.
Hinrich also had a nice evening offensively, who scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including a big individual spurt to close out the third quarter as the Cavaliers were rallying, and added eight assists and two steals.
I thought Hinrich running the team was outstanding, Thibodeau said of the veteran. Terrific. Every night, his defense sets the tone for our team and he kept us organized. Thats huge. Thats what a point guard does.
On the downside, however, was Noah getting a technical foul his fifth on the season, tied for the league lead early in the fourth quarter, much to Thibodeaus displeasure.
Not only Jo, our team. We cant afford fourth-quarter technicals, just cant, Thibodeau said. Its too hard to make up, so weve got to clean that up and I know its an emotional game, hes an emotional player, but weve got to control the emotions, particularly late and theres an appropriate way to make your point to an official. Thats something, as a team, we have to learn.