With the fifth seed hanging in the balance, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau--as is the case whether game No. one or 82—was playing for the win, not focusing any of his attention towards the progress of what the Atlanta Hawks were doing, nor who they would be matching up against in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
“Just worry about our team. We’ll just worry about it when we get there,” Thibodeau said before the game. “I want to play well today and tomorrow we’ll worry about what we have to get ready for. It’s an exciting time of the year. The big thing was playing well going down the stretch and getting our health front and now we have to make sure that we’re sharp.
“We’ll sort [lineups] out after tonight as we move forward. I still want to see how guys are moving out there. And then we have to see where we are minutes-wise with people and also look at who we’re going up against and how we matchup.”
They handled their business in defeating the Washington Wizards, 95-92, to secure the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and will begin preparation for the Brooklyn Nets. The Hawks fell to the New York Knicks and claim the No. 6 seed.
Leading by two, Kirk Hinrich split a trip to the line with 17 seconds remaining in the game. John Wall’s 3-pointer fell short as time expired.
Carlos Boozer led the way with a team-high 19 points, pulling down 15 boards in the win. Nazr Mohammed added 17 points and Kirk Hinrich scored 18 of his own.
Despite leading the game by as many as 21 in the first period and their visitors looking like a team ready for summer vacation, the Wizards closed the gap in the second period after a 19-4 run to start the period, but the Bulls held onto a 54-47 lead going into halftime.
The Wizards came back to tie the game at 85 with 3:18 remaining. An A.J. Price floater brought them within 94-92, but it was as close as they would get.
It was a victory that summed up the Bulls style this season in grinding out victories.
“I like the way our team has battled all year long,” said Thibodeau after this morning’s shootaround. “The Derrick piece was something we could prepare for. We knew, last summer, that he would be out an extended amount of time. What you didn’t know was all the other injuries. With that being said, I thought when others had an opportunity to step up, they did. For the most part, I think that we done a great job at showing a lot of toughness and I want them to continue to show that toughness. I think it’s going to go up a level now and we got to be ready for that.”