Noah: It was a good win for us
SALT LAKE CITY—Nate Robinson told CSNChicago.com that Thursday night’s blowout loss in Denver “an embarrassment to the city of Chicago,” while being interviewed on the Energy Solutions Arena court immediately after Friday evening’s game.
If that was the case, then the Bulls’ 93-89 win over Utah was a return to normalcy. It wasn’t a flawless victory—the Bulls’ wins rarely are—but it spoke volumes about the team’s ability to bounce back, battle through adversity and exert its will.
“We needed to bounce back. We took a punch last night, we got up today and we fought, and that’s what you’ve got to do. You can’t look backwards, you can’t look ahead, you’ve got to look at exactly what’s in front of you. I liked the way we approached the game. It’s been a long trip and now we get a chance to gather, get home correct and get ready,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, approximately 24 hours after the worst win of his head-coaching tenure, explained. “That comes from commitment. When you have a team that commits, the more you’re invested, the harder it is to give in, so that’s all a part of mental toughness and I think our team is invested, they’re committed. We were all disappointed with the way we performed yesterday and we wanted to bounce back today.”
The way the Bulls played in the first half—with balanced scoring, propelled by Robinson’s first-quarter playmaking and second-quarter scoring, as well as typically tough play from Taj Gibson on both ends of the floor—while impressive, was more of the offensive-minded basketball that Thibodeau has shouted down over the past week. Things didn’t get better after halftime, as the Jazz made a comeback, thoroughly outplaying their guests in the third quarter to even things up, then overtaking the visitors in the final stanza.
But the Bulls refused to wilt and down the stretch, it was Carlos Boozer, fittingly, who took over late, pairing with backup shooting guard Marco Belinelli—back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s debacle with a right-ankle injury suffered in Monday’s loss in Indiana—for some excellent two-man play to close things out, quieting the home crowd, which had mercilessly booed the former Utah star the entire evening.
“I’m just glad we got the win. That’s what we needed,” Thibodeau said when asked about the power forward’s second appearance in Salt Lake City since joining the Bulls. “I thought he [Boozer] and Marco did a great job of playing two-man game. I thought Luol and Jo did a lot of good stuff to help execute, and Nate helped space the floor because of the way he scored early in the game.”
Continued the coach: “I thought we made plays down the stretch. Obviously we have to clean up a lot of stuff on our defense, but it was good to get a win. They’re a tough team that’s playing well, big inside. I thought they had their way with us early in the game inside in the paint, so our ball pressure has to be better, our help has to be better. I thought the rebounding—I was concerned going in—and we had some rebounds late that were critical for us, and I thought Marco and Carlos made a lot of big plays down the stretch, as did Luol. Nate was solid throughout, Jo picked up steam as the game went along, Taj I thought was terrific throughout, so we had a lot of guys step up; Rip got us off to a good start with catch-and-shoot. We needed everybody, but the road’s going to get tougher.”
Boozer, as usual, refused to take credit for the win, instead shining the light on the team as a whole.
“It was huge because we take pride in what we do and to get blown out like that, that was embarrassing. We all got our rest today, we had a great shootaround, great meeting and we did a good job today,” he said, as local reporters surrounded him. “Marco’s such a good pick-and-roll player. He can score, he can shoot, he can pass, great ballhandler and I was just really playing off of him. They tried to trap him, left me open on a couple of plays and I just knocked my free throws down.”
“We came in today, focused and I thought we had a great start to the game. They’re a good team, they fought all the way back. Al and ‘Sap [Paul Millsap] had it rolling. They came back and at the end of the game, we just did a great job of finishing. We did a good job of passing the ball, making good plays, making our free throws and getting stops when we had to,” Boozer, who scored a team-high 19 points, including 11 consecutive in the fourth quarter, continued. “I got in foul trouble so early in the game. I’m not used to that, so I was super fresh in the fourth quarter. I walked out there and in my mind, I’m like, ‘I’m not even tired right now!’ I’ve got energy, my legs feel good and just tried to give my team some juice.”
But while Boozer was the night’s hero, it’s the Bulls’ season-long theme of collective contributions that got it done Friday, as the team heads back to Chicago with a 3-3 record on the extended road trip.
“We all play for each other. Nobody plays to get the credit. When you’ve got a team full of guys like that, everybody’s unselfish. Everybody. Booz got it going late; him and Marco, and that two-man game, they couldn’t stop it,” Robinson explained. “On top of that, you’ve got Taj. Taj shot 7-for-9, comes in, does a great job defensively and he helps us. Me, my energy. Jimmy comes in spurts, Rip comes in. Everybody does their job. You know your job, you do your job and that’s something that Coach harps on, and that’s something that guys really take to heart.”
Gibson added: “It was big because we really had a lot of guys feeling really aggravated after that loss. It was a real hard loss. We felt like we just got dominated. We wanted to come back against an even better team tonight and just play hard. It took everybody tonight. Everybody just stepped up big and even our bench. We understand that there’s going to be ups and downs.
“It shows that we’ve got a lot of talent. Every time somebody goes down, there’s somebody ready to step up to the challenge. We’ve got a lot of humble guys, guys that are not all about ‘me.’ Everybody’s all about team and it shows the way we play, and tonight is just a testament to how we responded after getting blown out last night.”