- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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MIAMI -- Tom Thibodeau's players may get tired of his demanding ways sometimes, but they have always respected the fact that the veteran coach doesn't call out individual players publicly for their flaws. He demands perfection out of his team, but he also demands perfection from himself. That's why he spends hour after hour watching tape and devising game plans. If Thibodeau wants to come down on anybody hard publicly, he usually comes down on himself the most.
That was the case again late Friday night as he tried to explain how his team could lose to the worst team in the league in the Charlotte Bobcats at home Monday afternoon and turn around and beat the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat on the road Friday night.
"For one, you have to give Charlotte credit for the way they played in that game," Thibodeau said. "For us, I don't think we were as focused as we needed to be, and that was on me because that's my job -- to get everyone ready. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have played (Joakim Noah), but I respect Jo for trying to play. He tried to give us whatever he had and he was very sick so we didn't have his energy.
"Kirk (Hinrich) wasn't in, so that hurt us. But that being said, we have more than enough to win with. And if we're doing the right things we're going to have a good chance to win, so that's what we have to focus in on. You can't skip steps in this league; if you skip steps you usually get what you deserve, and we got what we deserved. Charlotte played very well in that game."
So the Bulls got what they deserved Friday night?
"Well, hopefully," Thibodeau said. "The challenge is to be consistent with that. It's not the end all 'you win a game.' You still have to look at the game objectively, try to figure out the things you can do better, correct those things and move forward."
In a season full of ups and downs, the Bulls must figure out how to do just that if they want to build off of such an impressive win. How can they be so solid against arguably the best team in the league and so awful against the worst?
"That's one thing about the league, it's so hard, every team has talent," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "It's rough to get up for some of the teams that are having a bad season, but it's so easy to get up for the guys that are defending champs. We just have to turn it around. We understand we're capable of winning a lot of games. We gave up a lot of games, but it's been a great trip for us. We really needed to get away on the road and we got two solid wins, and we need to build on it."
As the Bulls wait for Derrick Rose to return, the key in the short term appears to be finding Carlos Boozer and getting him the ball. He has been dominant offensively over the past two games, scoring 58 points and grabbing 23 rebounds. He has enjoyed being the Bulls' first offensive option.
"We had a little bit of a lull last week, but since the new year hit we all have a conscious effort to play a lot better," Boozer said. "Rebound, play together, defense, share the ball offensively. In January we've been playing much better. We've got two wins so far, but we're all focused on (improving)."
The improvement in Boozer's game can be traced to his aggression on both ends of the floor. He has played better defense of late and has shown a willingness to dive on the floor for loose balls, a feat that hasn't gone unnoticed by his teammates.
"He played huge for us," Noah said. "He can score so well around the basket. I don't know if that small ball (the Heat play) is going to work against us. Not with Carlos Boozer in the game ... he played very well defensively, as well. He was very active with his hands, and that was huge for us."
Boozer and his teammates understand that a win over the Heat can propel the Bulls for a while. They know that if they can play with that level of consistency they'll be able to load up on wins before Rose returns.
"Every games means something," guard Nate Robinson said. "And for us we're just trying to play as hard as we can for as long as we can and play together, and we did that (Friday night)."
Yes, they did. The challenge for Thibodeau is to keep things going is a positive direction. With Boozer locked in the way he is right now, Thibodeau's best bet may be to keep feeding Boozer until his hot streak fades away.
"Thibs is coming to me a lot," Boozer said. "My teammates are doing a great job of giving it to me in places I can be effective. My New Year's resolution of being more efficient and getting more wins is working out so far. I hope to keep it going."
So do the Bulls.
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com