- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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"We got our asses kicked."
He was right, of course. The Bulls played one of their worst games of the season. They got outscored 38-14 in the first quarter and never came close to crawling out of that hole. Tom Thibodeau preached before the game about "readiness to play," but it was clear his team didn't subscribe to that notion. After an emotional win over the Miami Heat on Sunday, the Bulls looked lethargic against one of the best teams in the league. Noah tried to brush off the notion that Sunday's game had anything to do with Tuesday's game, but Thibodeau took responsibility for how poorly his team performed.
"Like I told them, that [performance is] completely on me," Thibodeau said. "My job is to have them ready. We had no edge to us. That's a championship-caliber team that's playing on all cylinders and they're going after it. So if you don't match that intensity to start, you are going to get in a big hole. So I didn't prepare them the way they needed to be prepared for that, so that's on me."
Thibodeau's words are well-intentioned, but the players know they just didn't play up to their usual level. It wasn't like the Bulls didn't know the Spurs were good. They just got planted by a better team and they knew it.
"It's on us," Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said. "We're the ones that are out there playing so we got to bring it each and every night. Thibs can only do so much. But you learn from it. We knew to be ready. I guess we weren't, so to speak. So it's in the books. We've got another one on Thursday."
The Bulls have played so well for the last few weeks that they weren't too concerned about this game lingering. The players appreciated Thibodeau's sentiment but they expected more out of themselves. That's what makes them the team that they are. And they got another glimpse of the team they want to become by watching San Antonio in the process.
"Just frustrated with tonight," Noah said. "It's going to be tough to go to bed tonight. But move on [to Wednesday], practice, and get ready for the next team."
Thibodeau has gotten his players so well conditioned to his message after four years that it's become easy for them to diagnose their own problems. They let their foot off the gas early in this one. Hell, they never even started the car. The good thing for them is that there's always another game staring them in the face, always another chance to get better. They'll learn from this one and move forward. The irony is that Thibodeau's message after this game was likely the same one he gave his team after Sunday's win.
"Be ready," Butler said of Thibodeau's words. "We got another one on Thursday."
If they had embraced those words a little more early in this game, maybe the result would have been a bit different.
12dMatt Walks, ESPN.com