East's top seed doesn't change Thibodeau's mentality

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East's top seed doesn't change Thibodeau's mentality

INDIANAPOLISIn typical Tom Thibodeau fashion, the Bulls head coach expressed no visible sense of enjoyment about the Bulls clinching the Eastern Conferences top seed in the upcoming playoffs.

Well, its the next step along the way. As Ive said before, you try to put as many things in your favor as possible, said Thibodeau, in his first public comments since Tuesday nights Heat loss to the Celtics, locking Miami into the Easts second seed. Its not the end-all, it also doesnt guarantee anything, but I think it gives you your best chance.

It might seem, that by calling off Wednesday mornings Bulls shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Thibodeau was reacting to garnering the top spot in the conference. However, he explained that not was that not the case, but he didnt intend on switching things up as the regular season winds down.

Obviously you try to put as many things in your favor as you can, but I dont think you change your approach. I want our guys to be consistent with that, how we get ready for each game, and if youre doing the right things along the way, the results take care of themselves. You dont have to worry about seeding and all that, so whoever is in there, youve got a job to do. Youve got to get that job done and thats the way I want them to look at it, said Thibodeau, growing exasperated by the medias line of questioning. I dont want them looking at, we need the first seed or, we need the best record. No, all we need to do is concentrate on Indiana. When that ones over, then we concentrate on the next one. When that ones over, then we concentrate on the playoffs. I dont want us jumping around, skipping steps, thinking about this, thinking about that. Once you start doing that, thats when you have your missteps. Just stay focused on the task at hand.

By seeding and all that, the coach was referring to the fact that the Bulls entered Wednesday tied with San Antonioagainst whom they own a tiebreaker, having beaten the Spurs in the teams lone matchup this seasonin the race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. But while the ultra-competitive Thibodeau wants to win every game, he believes in his squads foundation.

Youre tested every year, but I think you begin the season and you always keep the end in mind. You try to build the right habits as you go. You want to develop a consistency and I think our guys have done that, he explained. Our preparation doesnt change each game. We want to try to accomplish the same things and try to just prepare ourselves the best we can.

I dont want us to change and for us, its the defense, its the rebounding, its the low turnovers, inside-out, share the ball, he continued. That shouldnt change. How you prepare shouldnt change and if we do that, were going to be fine.

Still, in the Bulls second-to-last regular-season outing, Thibodeau plans to play his regulars, though not for extended minutes. It helps that the game will be a test against a formidable division opponent, one who also plans to play its starters, possibly with the exception of Danny Granger, who has a sore knee.

Well see how it goes. I still think we need to find some rhythm with guys, but were going to keep doing the things that we have been doing, said Thibodeau. There are certain things I want to get a look at. Our starters have only played in 14 games, so they need some time together. Were not going to overextend their minutes. Well see how the game unfolds. I also want to get a look at some guys on the bench and some different groups together, too.

I dont know any other way to have them play together than to play together. The only way you can do that is put them out on the floor and let them go. Now, were not going to extend their minutes, where its overly taxing, but at this point in the season, youve either built the right habits or you havent, he continued. If youre waiting to change when the playoffs get here, its too late. Its what youve done all season long that gives you your best chance and all it does, with home court and all that stuff, all youre doing is giving yourself your best chance and thats all you can ask for.

With veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton finding his stride as of late, All-Star point guard Derrick Rose is the one starter who could probably use more work.

Were going to see that, said Thibodeau. He said hes feeling great, so thats a good sign. Were going to see how that unfolds.

Thibodeau could use the game to get a look at different lineups, such as Rose being paired with backup point guard C.J. Watson in the backcourt. He emphasized the squads depth being a strength heading into the playoffs, despite most NBA coaches typically shrinking their rotation in the postseason.

Our bench is our bench. We did the same thing last year. The starters played a few more minutes, but for the most part, its going to be basically the same. Then, we have great flexibility. We have a small forward who can go to power forward. We have C.J., whos comfortable going to the two. We have great flexibility with our roster and thats by design, said Thibodeau. Each game is different, particularly down the stretch here because you dont know who theyre going to sit and whos hurt. Obviously Pacers reserve guards Leandro Barbosa and Darren Collison together, that would be a grouping that you could get a look at that type of lineup. It depends on what your matchups are, depends on the circumstances in the game, but we feel good about where we are right now, in terms of overall health and rest.

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.”