INDIANAPOLISFor the 15th time this season, Tom Thibodeau had the luxury of having his starting group together in Wednesday nights win over the Pacers. While each member of the quintet werent outstanding individuallythe starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton shot a combined 5-for-21 from the fieldthe Bulls head coach liked what he saw in general.
I like the way the starters started the game. It got us off to a good start. Carlos was really good to start. Derrick had a really good bounce to his game and I like the plays that Rip was making off the catch-and-shoot. Rips shots were great shotsthey were all in and outso I was very pleased with our starters, he said. Theres always things that you could do better, that we need to work on, but were getting there. Our starters havent played a lot together all year, so it was a good opportunity for them to get some quality time on the floor and I thought that was good for us. Our bench has been terrific all season long, so it was good. It was good to have everybody.
As has occurred for much of the season, the Bulls Bench Mob carried the squad, with Kyle Korver in particular having an excellent performance with a team-high 20 points, including making four of his six three-point attempts, but there were good signs from the first unit, as well. For example, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah were both extremely productive from the outset, All-Star Luol Deng had a solid all-around night and Rose, the reigning league MVP, appeared to have regained some of his vaunted explosiveness.
Im just trying to play within the group. Theyve been doing a good job making sure that Im taking my time, not rushing anything when I come off picks, just trying to make the right play. Carlos and Joakim are doing a great job of making plays for other people. Lu is playing great, shooting the ball good. Rip is Rip, hitting mid-range and trying to get the line, trying to get people up in the air going into him. I think our chemistry is good. Our bench is even better. Their chemistry is great. They know who should shoot the ball, who shouldnt shoot the ball. Their chemistry is good. Thats the reason why we won the game tonight, Rose explained. Its easy now. Guys arent scared to take shots. If theyre open, were doing what were supposed to do and thats shoot the ball, and moving the ball, so I think our assists are up and were rebounding the ball, too.
Im not worried about that, he continued, when asked about whether hed return to his MVP-level form in the near future. Im going to be all right. Certain situations, if it was a crazy type of game and at the end, I need to take over, thats what Im going to try to do. If not, Im still going to try to play my game, play aggressive.
Unlike a lot of other coaches, Thibodeau is of the mindset that his starters should play significant, if not excessive minutes down the regular seasons stretch run, a position justified by the amount of injuries they incurred over the campaign.
Well see where we are. I want our starters to get more time together, so itll be similar to tonight, but well see how the game unfolds, he explained, when asked about his plans for the Bulls season finale Thursday against Cleveland at the United Center. I just want us to continue to take it step by step. Just get ready tomorrow, have a great walk-through, know Cleveland and the rest of it takes care of itself. Dont worry about all the other stuff.
Korver concurred: Im not into those guys totally staying out. Maybe in certain situations, with certain teams, they can feel that out, but I think for usespecially for us because we have had guys outwe need Derrick to play some. We dont need him to hurt himself or strain anything, but we need him to play and we need to play with him.
Typically, the Bulls win reflected what the team has done all year, with few blips on the radar: Win, no matter how it looks to the casual fan.
Explained Korver: Just a grind-it-out type team. We may have the best record in the league, but we probably also lead the league in ugly games played. Were out there just grinding, man. Were a great defensive team, were a great rebounding team and we definitely rely on both of those things to win.
Added Noah: I think we played well tonight, so thats a good sign and weve just got to keep it up. We just have one more until the playoffs start, so its an exciting time of the year and we just want to be playing the right way.
Even having clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are proud of achieving the feat in consecutive seasons, but remain focused on the task at hand.
Its huge. Having the best record in the NBA, youve worked hard for it all year and besides, you want to finish the season with good momentum. Weve got our starting unit, we want to get our rhythm down and finish with wins, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I thought we played well. Theres still a lot to work on, get our rhythm down.
Chimed in Rose: Its important, but the only thing weve got to do is win out. The most important thing were thinking about right now is Cleveland.