Bulls notes: Birthday boy Thibodeau happy to be back in Boston

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Bulls notes: Birthday boy Thibodeau happy to be back in Boston

BOSTON -- Tom Thibodeau spent his 55th birthday Thursday in a city that means a lot to him: Boston.
He indicated that his usual custom of going out for dinner with his former boss, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers continued, and the Maywood, Ill., native had to pick up the tab, a running joke between the pair that Thibodeau is aware Rivers will give him a hard time about through the media.
Of course Rivers informed the media that he paid for the coaches meal! Thibodeau quipped. He had to, too.
Birthday aside, the former Harvard University assistant coach his last stop before embarking on a 20-year NBA odyssey prior to landing the Chicago job talked about the special meaning Boston has for him, specifically winning the 2009 NBA title as a Celtics assistant.
I was very fortunate to be here. Its a great organization. To be part of a championship team, I think its a special place, so I always respect that, he said before the Bulls morning shootaround Friday at TD BankNorth Garden. I look forward to seeing these guys after we play, but I also know their spirit. Its a very competitive group. When the ball goes up, I want to beat them just as badly as they want to beat me, so I know whats at stake here.
Celtics Bradley impresses Thibodeau
Thibodeau discussed the impact of Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley, a defensive specialist who returned from a shoulder injury suffered in last year's playoffs. Since Bradley came back to the lineup Jan. 2, Boston has been a different team, as hes taken some pressure of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo on the defensive end of the court, as well as given the Celtics, who added several newcomers in the offseason, a dose of athleticism and added some familiar chemistry.
Hes huge. Sometimes guys like that and he proved it last year, too statistically, you cant measure their impact. But his energy, his toughness, his ability to slow people down, I think that brings a lot to the team, Thibodeau said of Bradley. With the Celtics, the core of that team is still Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, and so, those guys have been through a lot of wars together, and you throw Doc Rivers into it, theyre going to always figure things out and theres a lot of toughness there. Theyve got a lot of new faces, so theyre sort of figuring that out, but the core of the team is intact.
Bulls collective effort working in Roses absence
While theres been some uneven play at times during the campaign, like last season, the Bulls have seemingly found a formula for success without the star power of the sidelined Derrick Rose in the lineup. Thibodeau is far from satisfied, but acknowledged that the Bulls team approach has been effective at times.
The big thing for us was you can never replace Derrick individually and we knew that from the start, so for us, it was to do it collectively. Everyone would have to step up, do their job and put a lot into it. Thats our only chance and for the most part, weve done that, he explained. You cant replace a guy like Derrick individually, so we understand it has to be done with our defense and our rebounding, and sharing the ball and everybody being ready to step up.
You always feel like you can do better and there have been stretches where weve played well, the coach continued. For the most part, I think the attitude and the approach have been very good.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it's probably a little too late in the season for that, they'll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They'll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They'll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

"The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We're going to have to match that. We're going to have to come out and play physical basketball."

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it's just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

"I did, actually," said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he's scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside's tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg — although one can imagine how animated he must've been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

"It is what it is," Hoiberg said. "You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there's nothing you can do about that. You've got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute."

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn't seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls' success over LeBron James' Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

"Against big teams, we play much better," Mirotic said. "I don't know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It's on us. We just have to prove it."

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who've just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

"Sure, we understand," Mirotic said. "We've been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy."