East's top seed doesn't change Thibodeau's mentality

745118.png

East's top seed doesn't change Thibodeau's mentality

INDIANAPOLISIn typical Tom Thibodeau fashion, the Bulls head coach expressed no visible sense of enjoyment about the Bulls clinching the Eastern Conferences top seed in the upcoming playoffs.

Well, its the next step along the way. As Ive said before, you try to put as many things in your favor as possible, said Thibodeau, in his first public comments since Tuesday nights Heat loss to the Celtics, locking Miami into the Easts second seed. Its not the end-all, it also doesnt guarantee anything, but I think it gives you your best chance.

It might seem, that by calling off Wednesday mornings Bulls shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Thibodeau was reacting to garnering the top spot in the conference. However, he explained that not was that not the case, but he didnt intend on switching things up as the regular season winds down.

Obviously you try to put as many things in your favor as you can, but I dont think you change your approach. I want our guys to be consistent with that, how we get ready for each game, and if youre doing the right things along the way, the results take care of themselves. You dont have to worry about seeding and all that, so whoever is in there, youve got a job to do. Youve got to get that job done and thats the way I want them to look at it, said Thibodeau, growing exasperated by the medias line of questioning. I dont want them looking at, we need the first seed or, we need the best record. No, all we need to do is concentrate on Indiana. When that ones over, then we concentrate on the next one. When that ones over, then we concentrate on the playoffs. I dont want us jumping around, skipping steps, thinking about this, thinking about that. Once you start doing that, thats when you have your missteps. Just stay focused on the task at hand.

By seeding and all that, the coach was referring to the fact that the Bulls entered Wednesday tied with San Antonioagainst whom they own a tiebreaker, having beaten the Spurs in the teams lone matchup this seasonin the race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. But while the ultra-competitive Thibodeau wants to win every game, he believes in his squads foundation.

Youre tested every year, but I think you begin the season and you always keep the end in mind. You try to build the right habits as you go. You want to develop a consistency and I think our guys have done that, he explained. Our preparation doesnt change each game. We want to try to accomplish the same things and try to just prepare ourselves the best we can.

I dont want us to change and for us, its the defense, its the rebounding, its the low turnovers, inside-out, share the ball, he continued. That shouldnt change. How you prepare shouldnt change and if we do that, were going to be fine.

Still, in the Bulls second-to-last regular-season outing, Thibodeau plans to play his regulars, though not for extended minutes. It helps that the game will be a test against a formidable division opponent, one who also plans to play its starters, possibly with the exception of Danny Granger, who has a sore knee.

Well see how it goes. I still think we need to find some rhythm with guys, but were going to keep doing the things that we have been doing, said Thibodeau. There are certain things I want to get a look at. Our starters have only played in 14 games, so they need some time together. Were not going to overextend their minutes. Well see how the game unfolds. I also want to get a look at some guys on the bench and some different groups together, too.

I dont know any other way to have them play together than to play together. The only way you can do that is put them out on the floor and let them go. Now, were not going to extend their minutes, where its overly taxing, but at this point in the season, youve either built the right habits or you havent, he continued. If youre waiting to change when the playoffs get here, its too late. Its what youve done all season long that gives you your best chance and all it does, with home court and all that stuff, all youre doing is giving yourself your best chance and thats all you can ask for.

With veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton finding his stride as of late, All-Star point guard Derrick Rose is the one starter who could probably use more work.

Were going to see that, said Thibodeau. He said hes feeling great, so thats a good sign. Were going to see how that unfolds.

Thibodeau could use the game to get a look at different lineups, such as Rose being paired with backup point guard C.J. Watson in the backcourt. He emphasized the squads depth being a strength heading into the playoffs, despite most NBA coaches typically shrinking their rotation in the postseason.

Our bench is our bench. We did the same thing last year. The starters played a few more minutes, but for the most part, its going to be basically the same. Then, we have great flexibility. We have a small forward who can go to power forward. We have C.J., whos comfortable going to the two. We have great flexibility with our roster and thats by design, said Thibodeau. Each game is different, particularly down the stretch here because you dont know who theyre going to sit and whos hurt. Obviously Pacers reserve guards Leandro Barbosa and Darren Collison together, that would be a grouping that you could get a look at that type of lineup. It depends on what your matchups are, depends on the circumstances in the game, but we feel good about where we are right now, in terms of overall health and rest.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

update-121.jpg
AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Phillips DT Chris Elmore commits to Syracuse

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."