As regular season winds down, Thibodeau stays focused

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As regular season winds down, Thibodeau stays focused

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has dealt with a litany of injuries all season, but now, as the regular season winds downhis team has two games left in the campaignhe can finally begin to turn his attention to the playoffs. Except that, knowing Thibodeau, he wont allow his team to focus on anything but Wednesdays upcoming contest at Central Division rival Indiana.

You want to finish what you started, so we feel like theres still work to be done. This is what we all signed up for. Shortened training camp, condensed schedule. Weve said all along that its not only a lack of practice time, but its also a lack of rest. Those are two major components and you always begin the season with end in mind, so when you wind down, you want to be playing well and you want to be healthy, explained Thibodeau, who noted that his team has had exactly 101 practices I count meetings, walk-throughs, ballroom sessions, he saidthis season, approximately half of what they had last season, including the playoffs.

Heres the thing: I think, overall, this team has done a good job of meeting every challenge. Weve been short-handed. The guys who have stepped in have done good all season long. We feel very good about the bench and the job they have done, but its still a collective effort and theres along way to go. Overall, Im pleased, but theres also things we can do a lot better and were going to concentrate on those things.

The big question mark becomes when youre not sure whos going to be in each and every night. Youd like to develop some consistency going in. I think thats the important thing. We have to be consistent with our approach and how we perform, he continued.

Its how you respond to the challenge, so we want to keep moving forward. Were being tested and theres the adjustment of when guys go out and theres also the re-adjustment when guys come back, but you cant use that as an excuse. You have to be ready for whatever is in front of you and thats the way I want our guys to respond.

Speaking of respond, a word Thibodeau used after Thursdays disappointing loss at Miami, his opinion differed from the consensus that his team revealed a major weakness when faced with a physical challenge from the Heat.

When you look at the strength of the club, weve been a defensive team, weve been a rebounding team for a long time. Weve been a dominant rebounding team and you cant be a dominant rebounding team being soft. I know that, so I wouldnt say were soft, he said. Now, were we disappointed with end result in Miami? Yeah, and are we capable of playing a lot better? Yeah, and we were disappointed in our fourth quarter, but we also did a lot of good things in that game. That game was very winnable in the fourth quarter, so were going to make the necessary corrections and move forward.

With the playoffs a week away, although the Bulls head coach is focused on the task at hand, but in examining the potential competition in the East, he sees a tough road ahead for his team, who are one win away from clinching the top seed in the conference.

Just knowing that its a lockout season, you can have teams that maybe end up being a lower seed that really arent that seed. Boston is a team thats playing very well and they have championship experience. I think New York is a team thats really playing well. Indianas playing well. Youve got a lot of teams and theres great parity in the league. Theres not a big difference between the top playoff seed and the eighth seed, the second seed and the seventh seed, the third seed and the sixth seed, the fourth seed and the fifth seed, said Thibodeau, who was on the staff of the eighth-seeded Knicks during the last lockout-shortened season when they advanced to the 1999 NBA Finals.

A big part of success in the playoffs comes down to are you playing well and are you healthy, so you have to concentrate on those things. I think you know what wins in the playoffs. I think you have to be well-balanced and you have to be playing well.

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Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Doug McDermott scored a career-high 31 points, Jimmy Butler had a pair of key baskets in the closing minute and the Chicago Bulls beat the Memphis Grizzlies 108-104 on Sunday night.

The Bulls broke a 104-all tie with 25 seconds left on a 15-footer from Butler and a pair of free throws by McDermott. Butler also had a go-ahead 18-footer with 53 seconds left and finished with 16 points to help Chicago win its second straight.

Taj Gibson finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls.

Mike Conley led Memphis with 28 points and eight assists, and Marc Gasol had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Chicago was without second-leading scorer Dwyane Wade, who did not play on the second night of a back-to-back after the Bulls beat New Orleans at home Saturday.

The game featured 16 lead changes and 11 ties, with neither team holding a double-digit lead.

Most of McDermott's damage came in the first half after the Bulls struggled shooting in the latter part of the first quarter. McDermott came off the bench to reverse the trend.

McDermott scored 20 points in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, moving Chicago's lead to eight. He had 22 points for the half and the Bulls led 52-46 at the break.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Nikola Mirotic missed his fourth straight game dealing with an illness. ... F Paul Zipser, a rookie from Germany, started his second game and second straight after coming off the bench in his first 10 appearances this season. ... McDermott converted a four-point play in the second quarter. ... McDermott's 22 first-half points were more than his total for the four previous games (21). ... Chicago scored 14 points in the first quarter, a season low for the opening frame. ... The Bulls are now 4-5 on the second night of back-to-backs.

Grizzlies: Gasol made a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, marking 17 games this season he has made multiple shots from outside the arc. ... Memphis made 11 3-pointers in the game and has converted at least 10 3s in 20 games this season, including 11 of the last 14 games.

MLK HOLIDAY

This is the 15th season Memphis has hosted a game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. The Grizzlies are 6-9 in the holiday game.

In recognition of the holiday, Memphis wore special MLK50 Pride uniforms. The black jerseys have sea foam blue numbers, letters and piping with the full T-shirt look instead of the normal sleeveless. The piping replicated the railing in front the rooms at the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968, and the blue color was similar to the doors on the rooms.

MISSING WADE

Wade's absence meant missing a reunion with Memphis coach David Fizdale. Both left the Miami Heat organization after last season - Wade signing with the Bulls and Fizdale getting his first head coaching job in Memphis. Fizdale said he is sort of a "basketball romantic" and would like to have seen Wade retire in Miami. But he predicted after the player's career "his statue will be out front and (Wade) will be remembered as the great player that he should be."

UP NEXT

Bulls: Return home to face the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Grizzlies: Memphis travels to Washington to face the Wizards on Wednesday night.