Bulls can't find footing on offense minus Rose
May, 5, 2012
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has never wavered in the confidence he's shown towards his team. His coaching mantra is, "We have more than enough to win with."
He said it again on Saturday afternoon just seconds after all but admitting that Joakim Noah wasn't going to play in Game 4. Thibodeau's philosophy is that no matter who steps on the floor, the Bulls can win. It goes beyond talent for the veteran coach. He believes that if he puts his team in the right position and the players follow his direction, they will find their way.
But at some point, no matter how well a team executes an offense or runs plays, talent must win out. Clutch players have to make tough shots in big situations and the Bulls found out the hard way during the fourth quarter in Game 3 that without Derrick Rose, and to a much lesser extent Noah, the Bulls have a team full of guys who are still learning how to come through with the game on the line.
The Bulls shot just 6-for-25 in the final 12 minutes and looked inept at times down the stretch. It wasn't so much that a 14-point lead evaporated, it was how it happened so quickly. The Bulls ran down the floor on certain sets and appeared to have no idea what they wanted to do. Whether it was John Lucas III dribbling around with no particular purpose or Kyle Korver missing the open looks that he did get, the Bulls had no rhythm to their game. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, two key offensive weapons the Bulls needed to step up in place of Rose, finished the quarter a combined 1-for-7, with Deng's only shot coming in the final seconds.
As Thibodeau watched the tape on Saturday, it's hard to believe he didn't get sick to his stomach.
Understandably, the Bulls offense is still trying to find its way without Rose in the lineup. But as Thibodeau pointed out, it's not like the Bulls didn't get clean looks on Friday night, they just didn't make them.
"We got to be able to sustain it," he said of the offense. "I thought the ball movement was pretty good. Obviously, we didn't make shots down the stretch, that's something we got to do better. But we need easy baskets. We got to get out in transition. We have different units playing together now so we got to move that along very quickly."
Four games into the postseason is not the time to be making adjustments, though. The Bulls were supposed to be the team that could plug in pieces and not miss a beat. What they've found out is that the offensive balance in a regular-season game is much easier to control than the grind of a postseason game where each and every possession is a battle.
"We had the game," Deng said. "It's our defense. We got to be smart. We got to also recognize each other's strength, especially at the end of the game, and try to get smart shots."
The only thing Bulls fans know after the past two games is that for the foreseeable future on the offensive side of the ball, Thibodeau's mantra has proven false. The Bulls don't have more than enough to win with at the moment.
Watson return?: C.J. Watson sat in his locker stall late Friday night trying to make sense of what had just happened. The starting point guard played just 20 minutes, took only four shots and didn't score a point in the Game 3 loss. Now, as a reporter asked what was going on, why he didn't play late and why Ronnie Brewer didn't play at all, Watson gave a quick answer.
"Ask our coach," the frustrated guard said.
When Thibodeau did talk about Watson on Saturday, his message was clear.
"I'm confident that C.J. will play well [Sunday]," he said.
The last word: Thibodeau, on the mood of his team: "To me, it's not so much the mood of the team, it's ... I think you want to study. Playoff games are hard-fought. You got to make the necessary corrections, move forward. There's a quick turnaround from Friday night's game to [Sunday] afternoon.”