76ers head coach Brett Brown admits it’s not even fair to think about what the Bulls’ team he’ll face Saturday night would look like with a healthy Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, who was traded earlier this month to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But there’s one person who Brown says always will have an impact on the game, regardless of who plays and who doesn’t: Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Sixers’ first-year head coach spoke highly of Thibodaeu, who he has known for a while as the two came up the assistant-coach ranks at the same time.
“From afar I’ve always had just great respect for Tom and I’ve known Tom for many years, and there’s just a defensive presence, there’s an offensive execution and they’re just really well-coached. And when they don’t have Luol and they don’t have Derrick Rose, I still say they’re really well coached.”
It isn’t in Thibodeau’s vernacular to speak about himself, so in his own terms it’s his team’s ability to fight through rough stretches and be competitive each night.
Though the Bulls lost in Washington last night, Thibodeau has been impressed with the way they have bouned back from losses.
“There’s a lot of fight in them. We’ve taken a lot of hits, we’ve got to keep grinding. We have a long way to go, “ he said. “We want to be in position to win every night.”
They’ll have a solid chance to do that Saturday night. The 76ers are just 5-14 away from home and have lost five of their last six, including a 101-86 home loss to Miami on Friday night.
The Sixers beat the Bulls, 107-104, back in early November, but Brown knows it’s never the same story twice between opponents in the NBA.
“You’ve got tremendous respect for their bigs, tremendous respect for their energy, it’s always a physical game. You know you’re going to have to guard the post. I think there’s a real clever balance of how they pick-and-roll people, how they bring people off pin-downs, and inevitably I think their strength is probably their interior type of game,” Brown said, “and that’s where we, at times, have been weak. It’s got to be a team effort. We’ve got our hands full tonight in what inevitably is going to be a physical game. It always is with Tom’s team.”
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Thibodeau marvels at Durant
Kevin Durant put on a show Friday night against Golden State, scoring a career-high 54 points in a 127-121 victory over the Warriors. The NBA’s leading scorer — and likely the frontrunner for MVP — has taken his efficiency and scoring to a new level in 2013-14, and Thibodeau has been impressed, but not surprised.
“It’s pretty amazing. He’s a very hard guy to hard and Golden State is a very good defensive team, and to be able to score like that, he has a shot that’s very difficult to defend because of the release. And he can score in so many different ways, and it’s not only his scoring, it’s what he’s doing for his team,” he said.
“To win the way theyv’e won and he’s never satisfied, you see how hard he works on his game year-round, so it’s not surprising. And I think he’s very good at reading defenses and finding open areas, and he knows how to get a shot off. He knows how to beat the help, and he’s very, very impressive.”