Tom Thibodeau treats every game like game seven of the NBA Finals. He demands the same effort, the same preparation, and pushes his players with the same intensity. There's something wonderful and terrible about that.
No one wants to watch their team coast, and we've seen plenty of Bulls squads that put in a half assed effort and lost games they should have won. No one would ever root for a team to take opponents lightly or to go at three quarters speed.
However, Thibodeau needs to find the balance between his short and long term goals. The regular season doesn't matter for these Chicago Bulls. Only two things really matter.
1: Beating the Miami Heat in the playoffs
2: Beating whomever they face in the finals
That's really it.
The Chicago Bulls are going to make the playoffs. They are going to get a top four seed. There simply is no way this doesn't happen. Quite honestly, it's hard to imagine them not getting a top two seed unless they suffer an injury.
Last year, the Bulls struggled in the playoffs with nagging injuries. Carlos Boozer had a toe. Joakim Noah's ankle never fully recovered. Derrick Rose had something going on that cost him some explosion.
It's time that Tom Thibodeau take in one final lesson from Doc Rivers. In the year Boston lost to the Lakers in game seven, Doc rested all of his players down the stretch. They lost spots in the seeding, but they hit the playoffs with fresh legs. The team then surprised everyone by coming within a Kendrick Perkins injury from winning the NBA title [and almost won in spite of Perk's injury].
Who was fighting him every step of the way? Tom Thibodeau. He wanted to play the guys hard to sharpen them for the playoffs, but when he's sharpening the knife, he's grinding off too much of the steel.
Derrick Rose took a nasty fall last night. I won't say that he should have definitively been out of the game with 3:30 left and a 16 point lead. You probably start thinking about that with around four minutes left with a lead that size but don't necessarily act on it right away.
However, after going down, Tom Thibodeau had a WTF moment by keeping Rose in the game afterwards. Really? REALLY?
After the game, Derrick Rose can't lift his arm over his head, but he obviously had to be in there for another 2 minutes with the Bulls up by 16 against the Detroit Pistons, because obviously the team with perhaps the best defense in the NBA couldn't be counted on to hold a 16 point lead for 3 and a half minutes against one of the worst offenses in the league without Derrick Rose in the game.
Derrick Rose wouldn't commit to playing Friday after the game. He said it was too early to tell, and I doubt him playing the extra two minutes had any impact whatsoever on his status for Friday as frequently when you're warm you can continue to workout through some pain.
X-Rays were negative, simply a bruise.
Thibodeau displays amazing trust for his guys in some ways and an amazing lack of trust in others. He'll leave Boozer/Noah on the bench in the fourth quarter because he believes in Asik/Gibson. He'll give Joakim Noah the ball as the primary facilitator with 7 seconds left in a game winning opportunity despite the fact he hasn't been in the game for 22 minutes.
He won't bench Derrick Rose and Luol Deng for more than eight minutes a night.
It's tough to call a game and decide when to whip out the victory cigar and open up the bench. Coaches have seen too many crazy come from behind victories to take many chances. Where the Bulls really need to get extra rest for their guys is in the natural breaks that they take during the game.
In the Detroit game, Thibodeau did an excellent job of resting Rose in the first half. The team was generally breaking even under Lucas, and he played for the first seven minutes of the period with the Bulls increasing their lead by two points over that stretch.
Then comes the start of the fourth quarter, and the Bulls are up by 13, but Derrick Rose doesn't get his rest. Commit to resting Derrick Rose there. Lucas had already proven he could hold the lead against this Detroit team, the lead was even bigger than it was last time you had him in there, why do you skip Rose's break?
Odds are that if Lucas is given a four minute stint that extends as long as the team is playing well, then Derrick Rose may have gotten to rest the rest of the fourth quarter. With the Bulls playing seven times in nine days starting Friday, you need to find ways to rest your guys against the weak teams, because you may not have the chance against the best ones.
This season is an uphill marathon. It's far more grueling than a typical season. Chicago needs to hit the playoffs healthy, and they need to find ways to get their star players minutes down to increase those odds.