CHICAGO -- Even when the Bulls win, Tom Thibodeau sometimes sounds like a man whose team has just lost.
Such was the case on Saturday night after the Bulls' buzzer-beating 102-101 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls played poorly most of the night, got out-rebounded 58-44, yet somehow managed to find another way to win, improving their record to 40-10.
Thibodeau, as usual, was not satisfied.
"It is disappointing," he said "We found a way to win. We hung in, but the disappointing thing is that it is two games in a row. We were fortunate in Toronto with a big fourth quarter to bail ourselves out. We had two days off to rest, to practice and to be ready to play. In the end, it was disappointing."
Don't forget, the Bulls actually won this game.
They were the ones who made the plays when they had to. They were the ones who outscored the Raptors 64-46 in the paint. Luol Deng was the one who rebounded the ball and put it back in at the buzzer. Like the good team that they are, the Bulls did enough to win even on a night when they were once again playing without Derrick Rose (groin), Rip Hamilton (shoulder) and Joakim Noah (ejection).
The issue for Thibodeau and the Bulls is that he has raised the standards so high that he expects his team to play at the same high level every night. Aside from a few stretches on Wednesday and Saturday, that hasn't been the case. His players understand that, but that doesn't mean that they aren't taking pride in their accomplishments.
"We're apart of something great right now and we just got to enjoy it," Deng said. "We really play well together. You could see at the end of the game, me hitting that jump shot how excited everyone is ... Every night it's going to be someone different and we care so much for each other and it's good to see that in an NBA team."
Carlos Boozer echoed Deng's sentiments. He knows that teams like these don't come along every year and he's trying to savor every moment.
"We just have that belief in each other," Boozer said. "We believe in each other; whoever's out there can get the job done. We've had that since we all got together last season. And guys step up, guys take on that role. Unfortunately we've been without [Rose] for a little bit, we've been without Rip for most of the season, Jo got ejected today, and Taj [Gibson] came in and played great, and Omer [Asik] had a phenomenal third quarter. He had a double double off the bench. Guys just step up ... when you're shorthanded, guys have to step up and we have guys that can do that."
Yes, the Bulls do. But on this night, that wasn't good enough for Thibodeau. He expects, no demands, more from his team on a nightly basis.
"We were lucky to get that game, they outplayed us from the start," he said. "They dominated us. They outrebounded us by 14. They played hard, we didn't play well."
Imagine what he would have said if the Bulls actually lost the game.