Beyond final score, Bulls find their groove in Charlotte

Beyond final score, Bulls find their groove in Charlotte
February 22, 2013, 10:15 pm
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When everybody’s on the same page defensively, we’re a different team.
—Joakim Noah, after the Bulls' 30-point win

CHARLOTTE—Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will never admit to his team playing a complete, 48-minute game, but regardless of the caliber of opponent, Friday night’s 105-75 thrashing of the lowly Bobcats might be as close as he’s seen recently.

Unselfish and efficient on offense, tenacious and together on defense, the Bulls whipped Charlotte in every facet of the game, as evidenced by the home team’s 33 percent field-goal shooting, as well as the Bulls placing eight players in double figures on 37 assists and six turnovers, a season-high and low, respectively, a night after giving the ball away 27 times against Miami at the United Center.

“I thought we had the right mindset. I thought the ball movement was very good. I thought the screening was good, the cutting was good,” Thibodeau said. “We were disappointed in the way we played and we felt that we beat ourselves yesterday, so we wanted to correct that.

“There was the disappointment because we didn’t play well and the important thing was the way we approached today, to learn from our mistakes from yesterday, but be ready to play today,” he continued. “You can use the out of back-to-back, get in late, whatever and I thought we chose none of that. We chose to work and came out ready, got the lead early. We played hard. Played well.”

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All-Star center Joakim Noah, who had a typically all-around night of 10 points and eight apiece of rebounds and assists, to go along with three blocked shots, concurred: “We just wanted to come with the right approach. Obviously that’s not the same caliber team, but I think we came with the right mindset. It’s always tough to play back-to-back and we came ready to play, and it’s a good team win.”

“I like some of the play calls that Thibs was calling tonight. The ball was moving, the ball was hopping,” he went on to say. “Everybody’s getting an opportunity to score and it’s contagious.

“When everybody’s on the same page defensively, we’re a different team. I think we were aggressive from the start of the game and really set the tone. We were able to get stops, get the defensive rebounds and run in transition, and get going.”

Fellow All-Star Luol Deng, who had 14 points on an efficient 6-for-12 shooting after a tough shooting night Thursday against the Heat, chimed in: “Everyone played well tonight. I thought we played a great team game. We needed this game after last night. I thought we didn’t play well at all last night. It was good just to get a win and keep it moving.”

Thibodeau credited the Bulls’ selfless play for his leading scorer getting back on track, as well as the rest of his teammates.

“I think a big part of that was your ball movement. The thing is, you have to be in rhythm. I want to say this giving Miami credit because they got us back on our heels, but the ball has to move, we have to cut hard, we have to play high energy offensively,” he said. “When we play low-energy offense, we’re going to struggle and guys aren’t going to get into rhythm. But the ball has to move freely. When we hold on to the ball, we start dancing with the ball and we’re trying to thread the needle, that’s when we get in trouble. But when the ball moves freely, that gets you into a better offensive rhythm.”

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Deng echoed: “I thought I struggled yesterday. I thought we all struggled yesterday. It was just the rhythm of the game. We had no rhythm. Tonight, we’re back into it. It’s a long season. I judge every game by how it goes. I thought tonight I played well.”

It was the type of night where nobody could do any wrong, as even 19-year-old rookie point guard Marquis Teague got an opportunity to see extended minutes early in the contest—after fill-in starter Nate Robinson picked up two quick fouls—and held his own.

“Marquis played very well,” Thibodeau said. “Marquis came in ready to go and did a very good job.”

Now, the Bulls must carry over both their confidence and effort to Oklahoma City, where they’ll face an elite-level Thunder team Sunday.

If the blowout defeat at the hands of the rival Heat served as an effective wake-up call, then expect the Bulls to at least attempt to emulate what made them so dominant Friday against a much higher-caliber of opponent.