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Friday, April 4, 2014
Bulls' balance is a reason to smile

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- There were no idle hands Friday as the Chicago Bulls made sure everybody was involved.

Seven players scored in double figures during a 102-90 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks that would have been much easier had the team not lost interest in the final quarter.

Joakim Noah, Zaza Pachulia
It took Joakim Noah a little longer, but he finally did join Bulls' double-figures club with two free throws late in the win over the Bucks.
When the 14-62 Bucks finally did get the Bulls' attention by cutting the lead to single digits down the stretch, their game rally was halted.

Joakim Noah finally joined the double-figures club in the final minute with two free throws that pushed him to 11 points. By then, starters Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich had over 10 points. Reserves D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson were there too.

"I love the balance of the team," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The shot distribution was pretty even and I think that was pretty big for us. The rebounding is starting to come back which is encouraging. ... I like the balance of our team and each night it could be somebody different. Whoever has the hot hand or a favorable matchup, that's the way we want to go. Share the ball, make the right plays, make quick decisions."

Balance is the best way the Bulls will be able to make a run in the playoffs. They lack a big-time scorer and have been winning as a complete unit, especially on the defensive end. In a league full of title contenders that have two and sometimes three marquee players, the Bulls have a unique identity.

"It's important [to have balance]," said Butler, who tied Hinrich for high-scoring honors at 17. "I think we have a lot of different guys that do a lot of things well so if you take away somebody's strengths, we're going to the next guy. That's the type of team we've got. Just find an open guy and put him in a comfortable position to score the ball."

To make the point-distribution act effective, the Bulls know they are going to have to be special with both defense and rebounding.

"We're still working and the season's not over, but you have to look at this in totality and say these are the things we've done well, these are the things we can do better and this is how we have to prepare moving forward," Thibodeau said. "You never have it all figured out. The important thing is to approach it the proper way each and every day, not to skip any steps and concentrate on improvement."

When it comes to his personnel, Thibodeau has it figured out more than he is leading on. He managed to get a group that was downtrodden in November and December to believe in itself, and turn it into one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

Thibodeau doesn't boast much, but he seemed pleased enough about the team's body of work this year to take a tongue-in-cheek jab at the media.

"If we listened to you guys, we would have been done a long time ago," he said, fighting a rare smile that tried to creep its way across his face.