Just because the Bulls stole home-court advantage from the Nets by splitting the first two games of their first-round playoff series, it doesn’t mean that by hosting a pair of games at the United Center, they’re guaranteed to advance to the second round of the postseason.
Not only have they been wildly inconsistent at home during the regular season—a departure from the previous two campaigns, in which they were one of the league’s dominant home teams—but according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, there’s no such thing as a home-court advantage, if the home team doesn’t earn its fans’ support.
“I don’t buy into that. We’ve got to play well. We have great fans and great support. We certainly appreciate that," Thibodeau explained. "But we’ve got to give them something to cheer about. We’re not just going to walk out there and they’re going to win the game for us. We have to put the work into it."
Still, Thibodeau admitted that playing at home has its benefits and being in Chicago, the Bulls are fortunate to benefit from their predecessors.
“It’s the history, the traditions. It’s a great sports town,” he acknowledged. “I think you can be more comfortable. You’re in your own bed, there’s no travel. But readiness to play, you have to understand what goes into that. I think great concentration, knowing your opponent well, getting the proper rest and then, when you come out, having a maximum effort and that’s what we need to do.”
Thibodeau's players aren't drinking the Kool-Aid, however, as having home-court advantage back in their favor, they're enthused about playing in Chicago.
"Oh, it’s going to be crazy. Can’t wait," said All-Star center Joakim Noah, a player who clearly feeds off the crowd's energy, whether positive or on the road, negative. Playoff basketball, Chi-Town. It’s going to be exciting.
Jimmy Butler, a virtual playoff novice—the second-year swingman saw little playing time as a rookie in last year’s postseason—added: “I feel like it helps our team get going. Someone hits a big shot and the crowd gets into it, the momentum shifts our way. That’s part of having the home-court advantage.
“[The United Center will be] hectic and crazy, in a good way. I feel like we’re at home for our first playoff game and everybody is going to be pumped in the crowd, on our team, and it’s going to be a battle,” he continued. “It can help, but not the way people make it seem. You still got to go out there and play your best basketball, and that’s home or on the road. Like [Thibodeau] always says, you’ve got to do the same things to win a game whether you are playing in Chicago or playing in Brooklyn.”