Thibodeau's speech sets tone for Bulls


PHOENIX -- Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson summed up very succinctly how his team was feeling after getting embarrassed by the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.

"We were pissed," Gibson said. "Nobody wants to get blown out. We were frustrated. We felt like we could do a whole lot better."

One thing that has defined the Bulls throughout the Tom Thibodeau era is the ability to bounce back and win games after getting blown out the night before.

The Bulls thrive in the role of the underdog. They have the ability to stand tall in the face of adversity when critics around the league count them out.

That's why it should come as no surprise that Thibodeau's bunch found a way to earn a convincing 101-92 road win over a hot Phoenix Suns team on Tuesday night.

The difference in this particular turnaround came several hours before the game had even started. That's when Thibodeau gave his team a speech about sticking together -- one the players remembered throughout the game and didn't forget after it was over.

"We just took that whole energy and took all that anger," Gibson said of the lingering frustration from Monday's performance. "And Thibs said a great speech today before the game. He just kept it simple. He said go out there and play hard, play for one another. Nobody's going to help us. And guys just went out and did a good job."

To that point, almost every Bulls player who saw the floor produced in some way. D.J. Augustin bounced back from a bad game to score 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Joakim Noah had another big game to the tune of 14 points and 14 rebounds. Maybe most important, Carlos Boozer produced -- and played in the fourth quarter -- to the tune of 19 points and 12 rebounds. The Bulls showed once again why it's never a good idea to count them out.

"He just got us together and said, 'Look, guys, we got to get back to playing our way,'" Boozer said of Thibodeau's speech. "We can't let frustration set in like [Monday] night. You saw it was like a snowball effect. We missed one shot, missed two shots, missed three shots, missed free throws. It was not like us offensively, and then it was affecting us defensively against Sacramento.

"Tonight we just got together in our meeting and said, 'Yo, no matter what happens tonight, let's just fight for 48 minutes.' And you saw that."

Noah agreed that Thibodeau's message was simple. He wanted his players to compete and play with the "fire" that was missing against the Kings. Noah and the Bulls responded the only way they know how: They followed Thibodeau's orders to perfection and got their road trip back on track.

"I think as a team we played with a great edge throughout," Noah said. "We got punched in the mouth in New Orleans. We got punched in the mouth in Sacramento. We just wanted to come out tonight and compete for 48 [minutes] as a team, and I think a lot of guys stepped up. That was a big win for us today."

It was a victory Thibodeau will remind his players they are capable of repeating a night-to-night basis.

The biggest strength the veteran coach has instilled in his players over his tenure is the ability to recover quickly when times get tough. He has set a certain standard of play during the past four years, and that's why he was so proud of what his guys accomplished on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, in the middle of a long season.

"I think it's a team with a lot of pride," Thibodeau said. "And some nights we might not play as well as we would like. I think we were all disappointed with the fight that we had in Sacramento.

"You come into this game and there's a lot of things going against you. You could have used an excuse, if you chose to do so. But that's what I love about the team: They come out and they're going to fight. They picked themselves up, and they did it together."