On the brink of elimination heading into Tuesday night’s Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Wizards, if the Bulls have the appearance of a team that’s been there and done that, maybe it’s because they’ve dealt with worse.
“Well, I think your confidence comes from your preparation, and I think our team has been through a lot. It’s two years of going against the odds. We’ve got a bunch of fighters, we’ve been down before, and we’ve climbed out of holes before, so we know what we have to do,” said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who downplayed the fact that the Bulls will be back at the United Center, where Washington won the first two games of the series. “It’s not going to change anything. I mean we have great support from our fans, we have great fans, but we have to give them something to cheer about. I think if we play with great intensity, we make hustle plays, they respond to that. We have knowledgeable fans. The important thing is we have to play well. We can’t lose sight of what we have to do.”
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“At this time of the year, this is playoff basketball. Every team plays the same amount of games, so I think it’s more of the mindset of, ‘Hey, these are the circumstances and if we have the proper amount of will and determination, we can overcome anything. We’ve shown that through the course of the season.’ When you look at the two games we played here earlier, they both came down to loose balls at the end of the game. So we’ve got to find a way to get to those,” he went on to explain. “We’re not changing the way we approach things. We’re just thinking about this game possession-by-possession, quarter-by-quarter, and take it step-by-step. That’s why you try and build those habits through the course of a season because in the end you know the situations you’re going to be facing, so hopefully you’ve built the proper habits to get yourself ready to play, have a routine, and then we have to play better.”
All-Star center Joakim Noah added: “There’s no time for frustration. We’ve got to keep our minds clear on what’s important. The only thing that’s important is trying to get a win tonight.
“Just got to find a way to get a W, man. Whatever it takes,” he continued. “It’s do or die. We’re down 3-1, so we’re just trying to find a way. Trying to get a win.
“You draw off all your experiences, good or bad.”
Bulls sixth man Taj Gibson said being back in Chicago should provide the team a lift, but like his coach, he didn’t think it would be a determining factor more than the simple fact that he and his teammates don’t want their season to end.
“We always try to feed off them. We’re going to need them big. First things first, we need to start off with good energy and start the game off right. The crowd can only do so much. We have to start the game off right,” Gibson explained. “At the end of the day, it’s all the same if you get eliminated [on the road] or on your home court. It’s pressure regardless playing in Chicago. I just think we’re going to have that kind of energy tonight hopefully to overcome this adversity and it’ll be a great thing to come back from.
“It’s tough because it’s in the back of your mind the whole time. But at the same time, it makes you play harder knowing your back is against the wall, knowing that you got a lot to play for. You’re going to give your all and bring yourself out.”