DEERFIELD — In the aftermath of Monday’s much-disputed overtime loss to Denver at the United Center, the Bulls are taking a collective approach of putting the heartbreaking defeat behind them.
[RELATED: Officials' decision-making leaves Bulls irked, confused]
As emotional as they were following the contest, in which the game officials allowed Nuggets center Kosta Koufos’ seemingly obvious offensive-goaltending tip to stand and after reviewing Joakim Noah’s less-blatant redirection of a Marco Belinelli shot, taking off the board the potential game-winner, time has allowed them to put the setback behind them, even in the midst of tight battle for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.
“You’ve got to move on,” Noah said after Wednesday afternoon’s practice at the Berto Center. “Tough game, but you’ve got to move on and get ready for Portland.”
[WATCH: Noah unloads on officials after loss]
Echoed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: “Got to move on.”
Thibodeau said that he would leave it up to Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson to communicate with the league office about the game’s ending, but stressed that although he wasn’t pleased with the lack of clarity about the calls, he wasn’t holding a grudge against the referees.
[MORE: Bulls-Nuggets replay controversy feels like deja vu]
“Look, they didn’t cost us the game. There’s a lot of stuff that happened in the game and actually, the game, up until the end, I thought was refereed extremely well. Kenny Mauer’s one of the best officials in the league, so I don’t have a problem with that. We have to do better. Learn from it and move on,” he explained. “That was the part that I didn’t like, just the way that all unfolded. You know what, it was an incredible play. It’s tough watching it on replay and as I said, up to that point, I thought the game was very well-officiated and I don’t want to put the blame on them, and it was bang-bang and it was a very tough call to make, and there’s a lot going in the game. But it does make sense to make it reviewable. That’s why you have the video equipment there. It didn’t go our way that time. Hopefully the next time it does.”
Taj Gibson, who watched the game in the Bulls’ training room as he recovers from a left-knee sprain, concurred: “It was tough. We felt like we had a chance to win the game. There were a couple of tough plays, especially on both ends of the court, and at the end of the day, we had plenty of times to seal the game. We can’t blame the refs. We have to blame ourselves. They can’t control the game. We have to win it for ourselves and that’s a [learning experience].”
[RELATED: Gibson could return Thursday]
Thibodeau discusses new addition
Malcolm Thomas, whom the Bulls signed to a 10-day contract Tuesday, took part in his first official practice Wednesday.
[MORE: Bulls ink Thomas to 10-day deal]
The team already has some familiarity with the 6-foot-9 San Diego State from his July stint with their summer-league entry in Las Vegas, but they coincidentally played against him last week, in Friday’s road win over Golden State, where he had previously signed a 10-day contract, which expired Monday.
“We liked him this summer. He’s one of those guys that when he walks into the gym, he’s got a lot of energy,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got to learn what we’re doing, but good kid, so go day by day.”
Bulls not taking Portland lightly
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Trail Blazers, with a new coach, general manager and rookie point guard.
Instead, they’re ahead of schedule and in playoff contention with Rookie of the Year front-runner Damian Lillard leading the way, along with holdovers like All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, originally a Bulls draft pick, and small forward Nicolas Batum, who signed a long-term contract extension over the summer and is rewarding the franchise with a career year.
“Talented, can score the ball, some really good young players,” Thibodeau said. “Aldridge is as skilled as it gets in the low post, so we’re going to have to be ready.
Thibodeau was extremely complimentary of Lillard, a poised floor general who is equally adept at getting to the rim, setting up his teammates and knocking down outside shots.
“I think being in college for as long as he was in college was a big plus, but he’s really good. Really good and the way he shoots the ball, very clever in the pick-and-roll, plays unselfishly,” he said. “He’s had a terrific year for them.”