It wasn't a perfect win, but the Bulls like how they're playing following Friday night's 102-90 win over the Bucks.
The good was a balanced scoring attack, with seven different players scoring between 11 and 17 points, 24 assists on 31 made field goals and another win on the glass (44-38) against a shorthanded Bucks team that dressed just eight players.
The bad was evident, too, as the Bulls shot just 37 percent from the field, allowed 15 fast break points and failed to put away the NBA-worst Bucks in the fourth quarter, as a 20-point lead was trimmed to as few as eight.
But for Thibodeau, a win over any team is just that, and it continues to puts the Bulls in position to earn home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"Shots aren’t dropping, sometimes we botched a play but I thought we made an effort to get back and come up with steals, particularly late in the game," he said. "The important thing for us is to find a way to win. So we’ll take a look at film, make corrections and then we’ve got to be ready for the next one."
That balanced scoring attack was led by Jimmy Butler, who matched Kirk Hinrich with a team-high 17 points. He attempted nine free throws (including the pair that earned the United Crowd Big Macs) and added six rebounds and five assists in a game-high 41 minutes.
Butler said that Thibodeau's "five-man offense, five-man defense" philosophy is what's powering the Bulls through their current four-game win streak. When the Bucks paid attention to Joakim Noah (11 points, 13 rebounds, four assists) and Taj Gibson (13 points, four rebounds), it opened up space for Hinrich and DJ Augustin (14 points, six assists) to work. And when the ball moved around the perimeter, it allowed Butler to slash through the lane and freed up Mike Dunleavy (12 points, two 3-pointers). Carlos Boozer, who had five assists to go with his 14 points and 11 rebounds, may have been the best example of playing within that five-man offense.
"We all contribute on offense and defense. So when everybody’s scoring the ball like we did tonight it gets us going in a little rhythm," Butler said. "I think we got a lot of guys that do different things well. So if you take away somebody’s strength, we go to the next guy. Find an open guy and put him in a comfortable spot to score the ball."
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Perhaps more could have been expected against a Bucks team that tied a franchise record with their 62nd loss, but Taj Gibson admitted that "not every win is going to be perfect" and that being able to learn from a sloppy win and improve from game-to-game is just as important as the end result.
"We’re looking at how they’re done," Gibson said of each Bulls win. "We’re trying to sharpen our weapons, but at times it’s going to be tough. It’s late in the season, but we just have to keep pushing forward. A win in this league is a win in this league, if they’re in last place or first place. Every game is tough in this league."
Wins will be just as tough to come by tomorrow evening when the Bulls travel to Washington to take on a Wizards team that has won the two previous matchups this season. And though the Bulls say they aren't worried about playoff seeding, Saturday's game may have an impact as the Bulls fight for the No. 3 seed and the Wizards, 1.5 games back of the Nets, try and move up to the No. 5 seed.
Jimmy Butler admitted the game will be a "test," and Thibodeau said it's all the Bulls are focused on at the moment. With six regular season games remaining, Thibodeau wants his team playing with as much confidence and poise as possible come playoff time, even if it wasn't seen for 48 minutes Friday.
"You never have it all figured out," he said. "The important thing is to approach it the proper way each and every day, not skip any steps and concentrate on improving."