OAKLAND—“Try,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
That was the short-and-sweet, expletives-deleted version of what he said he told his team after Wednesday night’s embarrassing 42-point loss in Sacramento.
And that’s exactly what the Bulls did Friday night at Oracle Arena, with a resounding 113-95 victory over Golden State.
“This team has a lot of pride, so we knew we stunk. Everybody. Players, coaches. We stunk, so we had to correct it and the big thing is putting the work in. The magic is in the work. You put the work in, usually the results are going to be good,” Thibodeau explained. “We had a good meeting, we ironed some things out, but the most important thing was the action on the floor. We had a great practice yesterday. Guys got after each other, it was the right intent to improve and to get right, so I think when you concentrate and you put maximum effort into it, it leads to great intensity and I thought we did that. I thought yesterday’s practice was very good. I thought the shootaround was serious. I thought we had the right approach.
“I do know we have pride and we’ve taken a hit, we’ve lost some guys along the way, but our guys will battle and we know that we’re short-handed, but if we have the right intensity and we do it collectively, we have a chance and we’ve shown that throughout the year,” he continued. “Everything [was better Friday]: Energy, screening, sustaining spacing, moving the ball, making quick decisions, ball movement, player movement, inside-out. I thought we started the game was very important.”
Thibodeau didn’t like his team’s fourth-quarter effort, so the win didn’t reach his standards of a 48-minute game, but there wasn’t much to find fault with overall.
[HIGHLIGHTS: Bulls clobber Warriors to close out road trip]
Predictably, the efforts from All-Star Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were big keys to the triumph, but more polarizing Bulls players were also catalysts in the contest.
Nate Robinson not only showed off his scoring and disciplined playmaking chops against the team he played for last season, but threw in tremendous ball pressure defensively, harassing Warriors star point guard Stephen Curry into an eight-point night on 2-for-13 shooting.
Carlos Boozer, one of the only Bulls to have a solid game Wednesday, again put up good numbers, but it was his defensive effort and above-the-rim finishing that drew attention.
“First to the floor, that’s the thing. Defend—the first thing—get back, get set, guard your man, help when help is needed, be first to the floor, make multiple effort, hustle. You do stuff like that, that stuff unites and inspires your team, so you’ve got a team committed to doing that, you’re going to have a good chance,” Thibodeau said. “Everything: Scoring, defense, rebounding, hustling. I thought our starters played terrific to start the game. I thought Nate’s ball pressure, Jo’s hustle, that got everyone going and then, Carlos got going, Luol was solid throughout, Marco started slowly battled through things and got going, and it was good, good all-around effort.”
Boozer chimed in: “We had a great practice yesterday. We were very aggressive. We got back on how the Chicago Bulls play, how we play. It transferred over from yesterday in practice to shootaround this morning and then tonight, so our intensity was phenomenal.
“We police each other. We push each other. I think that’s how we get our intensity. We keep each other accountable for what we’re supposed to do and you saw how we were playing tonight. That’s how we can play every night. Shooting will come and go, but our defense was so amazing, our rebounding was great, our attention to detail was there and that’s how we have to win, especially because we’re super short-handed. We have four huge players out we’re playing without every game, so that’s how it has to be.”
Robinson added: “It was just a must. Our practice yesterday, we had a long talk about some things that need to be addressed, we addressed them as a team and we moved forward, and we had a great practice, a great scrimmage and coach said we need to play like that every night, so that’s something that we decided as a team, just to come out every night and play as hard as we can, go against our opponent with every matchup that we have to go at them and attack.
“One thing coach said he should never have to coach is effort and we didn’t give a good effort the last game we played,” he went on to say. “Booz had, I think, one of the best hustle plays all season today and it got everybody hype, so we just took that positive energy and ran with it.”
The question now is whether the Bulls can continue to build upon this performance, instead of letting it become a one-game rallying cry.
Although they return home from the three-game West Coast road trip on a positive note for a week’s slate of games at the United Center, it won’t get any easier.
However, if the mentality of their lightning-in-a-bottle outing, as well as the sting of the defeat to the lowly Kings can be captured, then at least competitiveness will never again be an issue.
“I think we played with the right mindset today. Losing to Sacramento the way we lost to Sacramento the other day was very humbling and it’s a reality check. If we don’t come ready to play, we can get our [expletive] kicked. I think we’ve just got to build from this and we’re going through a lot of adversity. It was a big win tonight. We’ve just got to keep fighting,” Noah said. “When you lose by 40 to Sacramento, that in itself, you can say whatever you want. We had a good practice and it’s a wakeup call. You can’t be clowning around. We’ve got to be focused and that’s got to be a priority.”