CLEVELAND -- Tom Thibodeau is constantly pointing out flaws in his dogged pursuit of perfection.
He never wants his team to be comfortable because in Thibodeau's basketball-compulsive brain, comfort is a sign of weakness. It's a sign that his group doesn't want to get any better. But even the crusty veteran coach couldn't find much to be upset about after the Chicago Bulls' 115-86 demolition of the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night.
Sure, there was the buzzer beater at the end of the first half that cut the Bulls’ lead to 25 and the fourth-quarter execution wasn't exactly to his liking, but Thibodeau knows his team was dominant and can continue to get better.
"I thought the readiness to play was really good," Thibodeau admitted. "I thought their defense was very good to start the game. We ran the floor well and we played inside-out and we shared the ball."
They did all of that and more against the Cavs. The Bulls played like a team that was on a different level. They played like the team they have become over the past two seasons under Thibodeau. The ball movement was crisp, the defensive rotations were solid, and the play was tough. The Bulls are going to be without Derrick Rose for a long time this season, but they still believe they can win. They still believe they have the ability to rack up victories by sticking to Thibodeau's plan. They proved that again Friday night. They had the intensity that Thibodeau is always preaching about.
"It's how we practice," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "We practice hard so it's easy to play hard out there. It's just what we do every game and we stay on each other. We stay on each other and we got a team where everyone listens to everyone. So it's really easy to, if you see something, it's really easy to tell the next guy."
That's the way Thibodeau wants it.
"When you look at intensity you have to understand where it comes from," he said. "It comes from your concentration, being prepared, and your effort. When you put those three things together you'll be intense. It doesn't come from emotion. You have to understand where it does come from. So if we put the work in and we do the right things and we're ready to go, we'll be intense."
If the stamp of a good team is being able to break the will of lesser opponents, then the Bulls shouldn't have a problem racking up wins throughout most of the season. They showed that killer instinct.
"I thought we did a good job today just keeping our foot on the pedal and just taking them out of the game," Deng said.
The challenge, of course, is being able to maintain that focus day after day after day. With Thibodeau at the helm though, the Bulls shouldn't have a problem. The players know that their coach won't let them rest on their laurels even for a second.
"You know how it is, man," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "You got to measure yourself (as) 'Is it good enough against the great teams?’ Not taking anything away from Cleveland, but our goals are much higher than beating Cleveland. Our goals are trying to win a championship and I think for us to do that we have to measure how we're playing, 'Is it championship worthy?' I think Thibs talks to us about that all the time. Amongst ourselves in the locker room we talk about that too, 'Is this championship worthy?' So for us, no matter if we're up by a lot or not, we want to be a 48-minute (team) because we know in the playoffs you're going to have to play 48 minutes to get it done."