Thibodeau not pleased with Bulls' sloppy play
It wasn’t as bad, at least on paper, as last Thursday’s thrashing in Denver at the hands of the Nuggets.
But without the likes of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in the lineup, Monday night’s 103-89 Bulls loss to San Antonio at the United Center was just as embarrassing, if not more so.
It’s clear as day that there was a disconnect on the court—19 turnovers, a general lack of chemistry—but while the Bulls, perhaps more than most teams, understand how a good system can beat more talented individual players, the thing to keep an eye on is how long it persists.
If games like the Denver blowout and the flat performance against the Spurs are just bumps in the road, a tired team looking toward the weekend’s upcoming All-Star break, so be it.
But if they’re indications of bigger issues, that’s a different story.
“Look, the season’s a grind and that’s the challenge for everyone, is not to go on break early and for us, that’s our way. We have to grind. That’s what allows us to be successful. If we don’t, we’re not going to be successful,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. “There’s different times of the season where you’re dealing with different issues. Sometimes it’s the holiday season, sometimes it’s the All-Star break, before the break. Then, the challenge is, when you come back after the break, is not to stay on break. But this thing’s going to be a fight and our road’s a tough one, and if we’re not committed to the grind, it’s not going to be good.”
His voice hoarse, Thibodeau went on to challenge the very fabric of his team, known for its discipline and blue-collar nature, in the wake of allowing three of four opponents to score over 100 points in the past week, let alone experience severe ball-security issues.
“We have to get our intensity back, we have to get our discipline back. Right now, people are looking for bailouts. You can’t have that. We’re taking some shortcuts and we’re paying for it, both offensively and defensively,” he said. “We’re having a lot of hampered possessions, where guys don’t know what the other guy is doing, so it’s leading to people being stuck with the ball, trying to make something out of nothing, going one-on-one and you’ve got five guys staring at you, so that leads to turnovers.
“Defensively, there’s always two things you ask yourself: One, are we doing it hard enough and two, are we executing the scheme correctly? The bailout is, when someone scores, ‘Oh, we’ve got to change.’ No, you’ve got to ask your ask yourself if you’re doing it hard enough first and are you doing your part correctly,” the coach went on to say. “It’s hard to judge when you don’t have those two things under control. Your intensity, you have control over. Doing your job in the scheme, you have control over and then if they’re scoring, and you’re doing those two things, then maybe you think about changing. But right now, we’re not getting it done.”
The fact that Monday’s loss occurred against an undermanned squad made it that much worse, as the Bulls are used to being the short-handed team that sneaks up on its rivals, not the unprepared victim.
“We talked about it. But we’re pros. We’re aware of it. When we have our guys out—we still have D-Rose out. We have Kirk out, we’ve had myself out, we’ve had Jo out, we’ve had Lu out. We’ve had guys step up before, so that’s something that we’re familiar with, with our own team. Our system works, especially guys step up and that’s what happened tonight, for them. They had guys step up. Leonard was unbelievable,” Carlos Boozer said. “They played really well. They had their ‘Big Three’ out, but the rest of the guys played great.
“We’ve been playing well, but tonight wasn’t one of our better performances,” he continued. “We don’t have any excuses. We just play. Tonight we just didn’t have it.”
Again, that’s fine if it’s a one-game thing over the course of 82 games.
But if it’s the start of a trend, then it’s a cause for concern.