It's not often you'll hear me say this about Tom Thibodeau, who is the second best coach in the NBA behind Gregg Popovich. But his refusal to take DJ Augustin out of Game 1 in the 4th quarter was the Bulls' downfall as they lost home court advantage in a 102-93 Washington victory.
Augustin tied Kirk Hinrich with a team-high 16 points, but he was absolutely putrid on offense most of the night. He only hit 3/15 shots and missed all four of his 3pt attempts, but it was his complete lack of defense that cost the Bulls this game. And it's not his fault, if the coach puts you on the floor, you play.
The Bulls' entire philosophy is built around defense, especially 4th quarter defense. And if Augustin is scoring, you can live with him being a below average defender. But when he's not, and he's being abused on defense, you need to get him out of the game and get Mike Dunleavy back in.
DJ's runner in the lane gave the Bulls a 77-72 lead with just under 10 minutes to play, but that's when Miller took over. He abused Augustin down low, easily scoring on 4 of the Wizards' next 7 possessions to keep them in the game.
Thibs should have gone back to Dunleavy and put Butler or Hinrich on Miller. I'm sure he'll make that adjustment as the series goes on, but that doesn't excuse tonight's 4th quarter debacle.
You can easily blame the Bulls' lack of offense in the 4th, and you wouldn't be wrong- but Dunleavy was 4/7 in the 2nd half, including 3/6 from behind the arc, before not seeing the floor over the last 8:39 of the game.
The funny thing is, Thibs did a great job of adjusting his rotation in the first half- Dunleavy couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, missing all five of his shots in the 1st quarter. So Thibs went to rookie Tony Snell for the entire 2nd quarter, and he played reasonably well for his first playoff appearance, helping the Bulls to a 32-24 2nd quarter advantage and a six point halftime lead.
Thibs doesn't get all of the blame for the loss- Hinrich and Butler especially showed a lot of fear to shoot in the 4th quarter. Hinrich passed up several open 3's, and the one he did take, he bricked miserably. Butler was afraid to go to the FT line after a 1/4 first half, passing up at least two chances to draw a foul on 3's, choosing instead to timidly dribble around a defender who would have fouled him (and sent him to the line for three free throws) if he had just taken the shot.
Thankfully, the Bulls get right back to work Tuesday night, and hopefully they will be able to correct the mistakes they made in Game 1. I never thought I would see Thibs get outcoached by Randy Wittman, but it happened tonight- Miller was abusing Augustin, and Wittman wisely left him in the game.
And Thibs failed to adjust- Taj Gibson even mentioned Miller by name while talking to reporters after the game.
As a Bulls fan, let's hope it doesn't happen again.