Thursday, November 29, 2012
Bulls bench bounces back
By Nick Friedell
CHICAGO -- Taj Gibson spoke for all of his Chicago Bulls teammates, especially his beleaguered benchmates after Wednesday night's 101-78 trouncing of the Dallas Mavericks.
After blowing a 27-point lead Monday to the Milwaukee Bucks -- in a game in which only three reserves played -- Gibson and the Bulls took advantage of the opportunity Tom Thibodeau finally gave them.
"We were angry," Gibson admitted. "Because I felt that we should have won that game. We should be on a two-game winning streak. We understand that every game in this league is hard to win. Especially being on the other side of this; having a tough go-round so far early in the season. Every game is tough to win ... and we've got a lot of guys that take a lot of pride in wearing the Bulls logo across their jersey so getting this win tonight, it was real special."
"Special" is not a word usually associated with a regular-season win in November, but Gibson's exuberance is easier to understand because of the nightmare performance Monday. The Bucks bench outscored the Bulls bench 56-10.
On Wednesday, the Bulls turned the tables and outscored the Mavs bench 50-34. Gibson, the holdover from the old Bench Mob and leader of the new one, admitted that he spoke up more than usual in between games.
"I've just been more vocal," Gibson said. "Thibs and the coaches, they just want me to pick up my defense. They said right now, don't think too much. We need you to go out there and control the defense and let guys know what we need to do. I told guys right at the end of the third quarter, I said 'We've got to pick it up on D in the fourth.' Even if we don't score we have to learn to shut guys down, make it tough. It's tough because we're just used to in the last couple years being solid on defense, having that tough rugged mindset. And that's one thing I was just going hard in practice preaching, and slowly we're getting it.
"Tonight is a start, and we've got to do it again the next game."
The question is, will this game give Thibodeau more confidence to use the bench?
The answer is unknown given the stubborn coach's personality. He admitted as much after his team bounced back in a major way Wednesday.
"It's not about any individual, it's about the team," Thibodeau said. "What gives us the best chance to win. It's about the groups who are out there and how they are performing. If they are in and building a lead, obviously they are going to play longer. We need everybody. We know it is going to take some time. My decisions have to be made on what's good for the team. I've always been that way and I'm not going to change."
Thibodeau's mindset isn't going to change, but maybe his rotations will after this performance. The bench clearly took Monday's game to heart and showed lots of pride in this contest -- a direct message to Thibodeau that they want to play more.
"I feel like we're coming together," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said. "We're getting more comfortable out there. As long as we play hard, make shots and defend, I feel like our bench will be all right."
The bench's momentum turned the game around in the second quarter as the Bulls went on a 27-14 run in the final 9:04 heading into halftime.
"I think we've just got to keep doing what we're doing every day and just stay confident in our game," Butler said. "Everybody's not going to have a great night every day but don't get down on ourselves, and I feel like that's what we're doing and everybody's picking each other up so it makes it easier for our bench."
While the bench might have had a great night, nobody is getting carried away. The group still has flaws.
"We're still trying to figure out what guys do well," veteran center Nazr Mohammed said. "What guys don't do certain things well, trying to get chemistry. You just sit back, wait your turn, work hard and be prepared."
Mohammed and his group were just that Wednesday and it showed. The bench's success gave the Bulls the emotional lift they needed after such a brutal meltdown against the Bucks. Only time will tell if this is a harbinger of things to come, but there was a lot to like about the group's mental fortitude.
"It's one game," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "I thought they responded great. I don't think any of them were happy sitting down last game, but they were great tonight and we just got to keep on getting better."