Thibodeau earns all-star coaching slot as Bulls hang on against the Kings

Tom Thibodeau becomes the third Bull to make it to the all-star game as the Bulls clinch the top coaching record for the Eastern Conference over the Miami Heat. Miami would hold the tie breaker against the Bulls except that Chicago has played one more game and though Miami will almost certainly win their next game, the cut off is today.

See, playing a league high 31 games [no one else is even tied] has it's advantages. Okay, one advantage, and it's not a particularly big one.

Will Tom Thibodeau start pulling players for defense until Luol Deng ends up playing 40 minutes as the only guy going full bore on both ends?

Will he have a 48 hour film session marathon dissecting the offensive game of every player on the West?

Over/Under on the number of times he screams "ICE" during the game?

It wasn't easy to earn this one for Thibs

This was one of the rare games where the Bulls offense carried them to victory. They shot 52.4% from the field, 9/19 from the three point line and 24/26 from the charity stripe. They won by six, but they chipped in four free throws during intentional foul time after the Kings cut the lead to two.

Thinking about how close this game was, the Bulls could have trivially seen a comeback reminiscent of the 35 point come from behind victory the Kings posted at the United Center two years ago. The Bulls had a 19 point lead in the fourth quarter of this game as well just to see the Kings come charging back at them.

However, the Bulls found a way to get it done and did a nice job closing the game by knocking down free throws and responding with big shot after big shot when Sacramento's offense would not be denied.

DeMarcus Cousins and Noah played to a draw

I said prior to the game that Joakim Noah's one of my favorite big man defenders in the NBA. He's an elite help defensive player, one of the best I've ever seen. He can pick up Chris Paul on a pick and roll and guard him in isolation better than most guards in this league. However, DeMarcus Cousins fits the "worst nightmare" scenario for Noah defensively.

He doesn't have the bulk to bang with Cousins and adding that Bulk would ruin the rest of his game. He's always going to struggle with guys like Bynum, Cousins, and Howard, but you live with it, because when you go against Miami there's no center in the NBA you'd rather have hedging your LeBron or Wade pick and roll than Joakim Noah.

DeMarcus overpowered Noah on offense all night long, dominating the glass and scoring at will. The good news for Chicago is that Noah had just as big of a night on Cousins. He used his speed to beat him down the court, his tenacity to pull down some offensive boards, and his quickness to get inside for layup after layup. He was also the beneficiary of wide open looks under the basket when Sacramento's defense randomly roamed around the court.

All in all, if I had to take 10/20 + 6 turnovers for 28 points or 7/11 + 1 turnover for 22 points, I'd go with Noah's numbers. It was great to see him get so much done on offense for Chicago because they clearly needed the points.

Luol Deng fell three rebounds shy of his first triple double

Deng didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but he got to the foul line repeatedly and did the most important thing against this Kings defense, he moved the ball quickly to the open man generating high quality looks for his teammates. The Kings lack discipline on defense, and the Bulls found quality looks all night long.

It would have been a great story of Deng could have notched the triple double heading into the all-star game, I don't know if he'll ever get another reasonable chance at 10+ assists in his career as his typical game and role don't provide him those types of opportunities.

Kyle Korver was at his best

Korver knocked down four of five from the three point line and displayed no hesitation whatsoever in launching his shot. He had a couple threes where the Kings foolishly left him, but he also knocked down a couple more where I was surprised he was able to get off the shot because he looked covered upon receiving the ball.

Overall, Korver threw in 18 points on just seven shot attempts and when you're in an offensive shoot out, you need that kind of firepower.

Taj Gibson rolled em

Taj would get strong consideration for player of the game. Outside of a travel where he switched his pivot foot before a drive, he was nearly flawless on offense [and he probably had a dunk if not for that call].

He knocked down his jumper all night long and did a nice job cutting to the basket and getting easy finishes at the rim. We won't get as much offense out of Taj most nights, but the Bulls needed it and got it tonight.

Watson didn't play particularly well but hit a key three

It wasn't C.J. Watson's best game, but give the man some credit. When the Kings simply couldn't miss at the end of the game Watson knocked down a big three to build the lead back up to nine and previously had hit another two to help add some padding to the lead.

The Kings widdled down the lead to two points eventually, but Watson gave the Bulls five in the final five minutes to help keep Chicago ahead.

All in all, about as much fun as you can have without Derrick Rose

While it was a game without Derrick Rose, and it featured the Bulls barely hanging on against a fairly pedestrian squad, I found it one of the more enjoyable Bulls games this season.

We had a true offensive shootout with both teams going on scoring binges [sometimes back and forth, sometimes separately]. We had some drama at the end, but the Bulls made enough plays to hang on.

While I'll always appreciate the Bulls tremendous defense, it was fun to see them go Phoenix Suns style on a team and gut out a win that way. It was also nice to hear Thibs say he was pleased with the win and acknowledge that you have to win games in all different styles in this league.

The Kings played with a super high tempo, and the Bulls matched them rather than trying to grind it out.

Filed under: Game Threads


Leave a comment
  • DeMarcus Cousins still looks somewhat emotionally immature to me, but the dude offensively can bring it big time as a Big. Something as we know is very rare these days in the NBA.

    That said, another Big who can bring it plays for Chicago. No. 13, Joakim, the Dream II, Electric Buglaoo(OK, that's just dumb). But however you want to say it, there's no denying Joakim Noah is back.

    He's virtually back to averaging a double double. In and of itself huge considering how sub-par he looked that long first stretch of games, and a good portion of last season albeit injured..

    The extended(and unstoppable) away hand layups slash hook is also back. Sighted last night against the Kings going left handed down the outer lane.

    This is what we need Jo to do Ad Infinitum, aka, a hell of a lot more. IMO, the only way the Buls are going to beat Miami is if Thibs and the team reengage Joakim as a significant offensive weapon. After Derrick, RIP, and Lu(with honorable mentions to Kyle and C.J.), Joakim's playoff past 15ppg on .528 shooting is the best weapon we have.

    Not to mention the interior specifically being Miami's weakness. Joel Anthony and Haslem are both solid defenders, but Jo going with the away hand, and the baseline hooks when he's in that zone they can not stop him. If they do it means fouling him, and getting their only viable bigs into foul trouble. Jo is shooting 78% from the line, and he can do better. In 5 playoff games he had 19 free throw's shooting .947.

    Still yet to be seen are the baseline hooks for the most part absent while they used to be a regular part of his game with one or two every night.

    Jo needs to get the ball to where he's back to 11-12ppg. Booz is out past the free throw line clearing out as the pick and pop killer shooter he's been all year.

    If Jo can regain that 2010 pre-Sacramento injury form with spin cycle dunks and a steady diet of driving hooks and baseline hooks while getting to the line, and making maybe one cyclone jumper a game, the Bulls can beat the Heat. Of course Jo reading sagging defenses(with Thibs and the coaches help) and him sliding into the openings for easy opp dunks and layins is critical as well. And the effort tips in and put backs.

    Course' they'll need a healthy Rip Hamilton which is still a big question mark, and of course Derrick Rose. And I still think C.J. can help us more then the lowly offensive numbers of Ronnie Brewer who should be regarded as a defensive specialist only at this point.

    Is it exagerrating Joakim's importance that after Derrick, RIP, and Lu he can be perhaps the second biggest factor in taking down Miami(along with Lu's glue defense on LeBron)? The Bulls better hope the former co-MVP, impact stud we knew as Joakim Noah is not an exagerration, or me thinks Heatles will be playing OKC for the Larry O'Shaunessy trophy(or whatever the hell they call it).

  • Also, some are saying Derrick should take a few more games off to make sure the back's OK, but be back for the All-Star game or a game before..?

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    I think if Rose doesn't play in the seven games leading up to the ASG that he should sit that one out too, but that's just my opinion. If he returns prior to the ASG then he should be fine to play in it as long as he doesn't flair anything up.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Isn't there a rule that if you can't/don't play in your teams last game before the break, you cannot play in the All Star game itself, I think.

  • Should we be more worried about the Bulls struggles last night or the fact that Miami annihilated the Pacers last night, at Indy.

    Don't judge by the final score, Miami was up 33 at the end of the third and up over 20 from early in the second quarter on.

    Indy is a team that we struggle with even with Rose healthy, Miami toyed with them all night.

    As most of us suspected, the Heat are much better this season than they were last. When they are on, they appear unstoppable.

    I really don't see how the Bulls have the personnel to beat them in a 7 game series.

    Other than a D Wade injury, they are likely to get even better over the next couple of seasons, while we are strangled by "The Escorts" contract.

    Their really is such a thing as addition by subtraction, and it may be our only hope to ever have a shot at overcoming the Heats talent.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You're right, the Heat are loaded this year. Unlike last year, their bench is awesome. Eventhough they appeared, Miller and Haslem were significantly hampered by injuries in last year's playoffs. Battier and Cole weren't with the Heat. However, if Rose gets healthy soon, I still think the Bulls still have a good chance of securing the #1 seed. But I only give the Bulls a 20% chance of upsetting the Heat in a playoff series. Having a player like Boozer take up so much of the Bull's precious cap space, really does hinder the Bulls from getting over the top.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I don't think there's any reason to "be worried" about Miami relative to how we performed against one random scrub team and how they performed against a different (good) team.

    The Heat also lost twice to the Bucks whom we annihilated.

    In fact, I'm not worried about the Heat at all. Instead, I'm simply accepting the fact that the Heat are favorites over us. We can worry about them all we want, but it won't change the fact they have more talent, and there's no likely scenario in which that changes.

    The Heat are just going to be the favorites over the Bulls unless they have an injury.

    I do think the Bulls can still win, but it's likely a 1 in 3 to 1 in 6 type chance to do so. Working in their favor is the fact that they have several key pieces which are built to play a team like Miami. Joakim Noah is probably one of the best case centers you could have to defend the Heat, and Derrick Rose is probably the best perimeter offensive player in the league to attack them on offense.

    The Bulls will need to hope that everyone is healthy and that they have tremendous team play to get through Miami. It's not likely, but a close game against the Kings combined with a Miami blowup of Indiana doesn't really change my view even remotely about how hard/easy it might be.

  • Linsanity is starting to worry me. I imagine his point average will drop once Melo and Amare return; however his assist totals will probably go up. The Knicks are still rather thin; however Jeremy Lin makes them much more problematic for the Bulls. I doubt New York will rank as a higher seed in the playoffs, but if this keeps up--we still have to see how he gels with Amare and Melo--the Bulls may have to watch out for both Miami and New York. I also don’t think D’Antoni has what it takes to coach a team to the Finals. Still a lot of basketball to be played, but the kid has impressed and looks to continue reeling and dealing, proving that he's for real. Is he a free agent next year? I don't know the logistics of it, but I imagine if he continues to play out of his mind New York won't have the resources to offer him a competitive contract next year--not with Melo, Amare and Chandler already on the books.

    I probably shouldn’t worry as much as I am. Miami is still the alpha dog, but the top heavy East is starting to annoy me—especially when a careless owner like James Dolan guts his team for every available superstar and lucks out with the acquisition of Lin. Rose is a stand out player and deserves a championship, but he obviously has to earn it.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    Lin is helping the Knicks, but they have wins against:
    New Jersey, Utah, Washington, Minnesota, Toronto and the Lakers in the six game stretch. Four of those teams are simply dreadfully bad with Minnesota being on the fringe of dreadfully bad and playing that way recently.

    The Lakers are the only decent team in the group, but they weren't playing well when they came into the Garden either.

    This isn't to say Lin isn't doing a great job in NY, to get a guy from the D-League to come in and give you what he's given them is tremendous. However, don't overstate the impact to suggest they're all of a sudden a top contender in the East. Lots of basketball left before they can prove that.

  • I disagree with the notion that Miami or NY are tough to beat because of better lineups in both of those teams. As I wrote in the game blog, Thibs is probably thinking long term in playing Noah so much even though he was getting killed by Cousins yesterday. He knows he needs Noah to be confident and make a lot of offensive contributions for the Bulls to beat Miami.
    Also, Miami beating Indy big-time doesn't mean much. They are obviously talented to go on this super-streaks especially in the reg season. We are also discounting what Thibs and other good coaches would have done preparing for them during the lock-out.
    And the biggest problem still doesn't go away with how LeBron plays in the 4th quarter and how the Bulls can shut down Wade most of the time.
    Again, the most important thing for the Bulls is Noah, Rose, Rip and Deng to be healthy and play at 100% in the Miami series. Other series/games are manageable with one of them not functioning well.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Moving forward for the rest of the season, If Noah becomes a 20/10 guy I will have no worries. In fact, that would be ridiculous. Unlikely, but lets hope he can pull off 15/10 and my hopes of a Bulls trip to the finals will drastically increase.

    I still feel my gut drop every time before we tip off against Miami. The Heat trio may not scare all, but I still cringe at the thought of James, Wade and Bosh running down court power slamming the ball in the opponents face. They've never scared me in slow tempo isolation, because they become inefficient and can't maximize their star power.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    I agree if the Miami trio get the confidence during fast breaks, they will also start getting confidence in their jump-shots. That said, I noticed one thing with Noah yesterday. When he realized the offensive rebound is not coming to him easily, he didn't make an unnecessary futile effort to get it. He ran back on defense to get back in position. The Bulls going for those offensive rebounds too much puts them out of position on defense against fast breaks especially Miami. I hope Thibs has them prepared for that. Also, Rip running around on offense doesn't give the chance for Wade to cheat and run back on offense easily as he did with Bogans. Rip being healthy is such a massive upgrade over is like replacing BJ Armstrong with MJ in 94-95 in terms of talent upgrade.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I agree Rip (when healthy), is an assets to Bulls.

    However, he looks quite frail to me and I have serious doubts he can stay healthy through 4 physical playoff series - even if he were to rest until April.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Honestly, you really don't need Rip except for less than 15 games in the reg season to learn the offense/defense and a game or two in the first round/second round if Rose/Deng are healthy. I think that's why the Bulls are making sure he is healthy first and probably Thibs is going to limit his minutes. We need him to neutralize Wade so that LeBron and Wade cannot double duty on Rose.
    That said, it would be nice if the Bulls can get JR Smith because Ronnie Brewer has been disappointing with his shot making/shot creation

  • In reply to Jmax:

    He's not a 20/10 nor will he become one. He also probably won't be a 15/10 guy.

    The Bulls need Noah to simply be a threat,. They need him to score when left open, make good cuts to the baskets when his man leaves to double team, and finish the plays that he gets at a high percentage.

    Outside of that, they need him to run the floor hard, get offensive boards, and play very good help defense.

    If he does those things, then they'll be good. The actual number of points is somewhat irrelevant.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    Wow, speaking of the definition of irrational,

    "If Noah becomes a 20/10 guy" for the rest of the season.

    I am the original member of the Chicago chapter of the Noah fan club, so I am not hating when I say that he will never average 20ppg.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I'd go so far as to say there's more chance of Boozer becoming an above average defender than Noah averaging 20 PPG.

  • Broussard on 5 D Howard trades, including one to the Bulls, there is some level of doability in each of them, I suppose.

Leave a comment