Thibodeau’s Bulls staying focused on task at hand


Apr 13

With a win over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday in the Bulls’ regular season finale, Tom Thibodeau improved to 62-20 in his first season as head coach.

Thibodeau tied Paul Westphal (62 wins with Phoenix in 1993) for the most victories for a first year head coach, this after already surpassing the legendary Bill Russell (60 with Boston in 1967). But he hardly sounded excited about the possibility when asked about it before the game.

“All that stuff I’m not concerned with at all,” remarked Thibodeau. “The only thing I worry about is us winning and our team.”

Point taken, and given the team’s success this season, who can question or second guess his mentality? With its 62nd win, Chicago improved 21 games from its 41-41 season in 2009-10, marking the third-best single-season turnaround in franchise history.

As for claiming that final victory of the regular season, Thibodeau again played his regulars—though minutes were down and starters sat most of the fourth quarter—with the exception of guard Ronnie Brewer, who suffered a sprained left thumb Tuesday in New York. The injury is not a concern of Thibodeau’s, who said he believes Brewer will be close to 100% when the playoffs begin Saturday.

Bulls center Joakim Noah also faced the Nets, recording a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in nearly 23 minutes of action. Despite tweaking his right ankle against the Knicks, Thibodeau reported that Noah was ready to go before the game and applauded his energy at Madison Square Garden the night before.

Though there was no chance Thibodeau would discuss the Bulls’ first round playoff opponent, the Indiana Pacers, with Game 1 set for Saturday in Chicago at 12 p.m. CT (ESPN and CSN), he did acknowledge the importance of beating New Jersey to have the best record in the NBA.

“It’s important from the standpoint that you want to put as many things in your favor as possible,” said Thibodeau. “To say seeding is not important, that’s not true. We want to get as many wins as we can.”

The Bulls, owners of the best record in the NBA after the All-Star break at 24-4, claimed home-court advantage throughout the NBA Playoffs on Wednesday with their win and San Antonio’s loss in Phoenix.

With the No. 1 seed and expectations growing larger by the day, Thibodeau said that keeping his team’s focus has come as a result of preparation and the ability to take it all one day at a time.

“If you look ahead, you get in trouble. If you look behind, you get in trouble,” said Thibodeau. “The challenge for us is to focus on exactly what’s in front of us and take it step by step. If we’re doing the right things every day, the results will take care of themselves.”

Bulls vs. Nets season notes

The Bulls have won the season series against the Nets just twice over the last ten seasons (tied series twice), most recently, in 2005-06 when they went 2-1 against the Nets … last season, New Jersey won the season series 2-1 … in their first meeting last year, New Jersey came into the UC and defeated Chicago 103-101 … Brook Lopez led the way for the Nets with 25 points and 10 boards, while both Derrick Rose and Luol Deng scored 27 points for Chicago … in their second matchup last season, Chicago defeated New Jersey 106-83, behind Derrick Rose’s 27 points and Taj Gibson’s 22 points and 13 boards … Chicago is 53-18 at home against New Jersey and have won eight of its last 10 games against the Nets at the United Center … the Bulls are 3-5 against the Nets all-time in overtime games, with their most recent overtime game being played last year—New Jersey defeated Chicago 127-116 in double overtime.

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s pregame comments (04.13.2011):

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