Adjustments? Bulls don’t need no stinkin’ adjustments


Apr 21

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

No more Bulls home court advantage with Washington’s 102-93 victory in Game 1 of the playoffs Sunday! Outplayed down the stretch and outrebounded! Again! If Nene means baby, the Bulls need a bigger pacifier! I’m not even close to being out of exclamation points!


“We’re not going to get away from the guys who have gotten us there,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday after practice in trying to comfort a nervous Chicago media. “There are certain things we can do to help each other get open. And we’re going to have to do that.”

In other words, no need to panic: I’ve got it.

Like the old Texas football coach Darryl Royal once said, “Dance with the one that brung ya.”

Other than not teaching grammar in the Texas schools, as we long suspected, the sentiment is clear: We got this far with these guys and we’re not about to change.

At least dramatically.

Thibodeau did say in answer to a question about potential changes in the lineup or rotation that , “We’ll see. We’ll see how it unfolds.”

I took that as an answer to the question of “Do something!” as: “We had a 13-point third quarter lead and five-point fourth quarter lead. Don’t worry so much.”

So I suspect the Bulls in Game 2 Tuesday will adopt a form of the Pat Riley advice he offered after most every playoff loss to “play with more force.”

“Your will and determination are important,” said Thibodeau. “I felt like they got to the loose balls, the 50-50 balls. So it’s going to be how badly do we want it and are you going to be willing to fight? Are you going to allow yourself to be pushed around? Those things all factor into it.”

The Wizards did seem to, in the simplistic boxing analogy, punch the Bulls in the face to start when Nene dunked and sneered at Carlos Boozer. Nene went on to score eight of the Wizards first 12 points and played a dominant role in the game with 24 points.

He and Marcin Gortat crowded and pressured Joakim Noah, who Monday was named the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year. It wasn’t the greatest timing that it came the day after the Bulls were pushed around defensively, giving up 102 points on 48.6 percent shooting.

“Yesterday was a tough game,” Noah said during his award presentation at the Lincolnshire Marriott. “But we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

There were questions about D.J. Augustin and allusions to whether the team might be better off defensively if he wasn’t in late in the game the way Andre Miller took advantage. Of course, the conundrum is Augustin — as amazing as it seems — is the team’s leading scorer and the top fourth quarter scorer.

You can’t shut them out all the time. You actually need some points.

“Not only D.J., our defense,” Thibodeau said. “To put it on one guy, that’s not how we do it here. I could go from start to finish. There’s an endless list of things that we didn’t do correctly. We’re capable of doing much better. And we’re going to have to. They’re a good team. In the playoffs, you have to play for 48 minutes and be disciplined. You have to stick to it. Some plays, they made tough plays. Give them credit. Others, we made mistakes. And we have to correct those mistakes. Communication mistakes? Positioning? It was a compilation of all those things. To me, if one guy is not doing their job, it’s going to make everyone look bad. We have to be tied together. We have to have the proper amount of intensity and concentration. And we have to finish our defense. That’s one thing that we could do a lot better.”

The apparent “adjustments” that are so popular to talk about at playoff time, at least for the Bulls for Game 2, would be whether to use Carlos Boozer in the fourth quarter to produce more offense and perhaps to ease the defensive pressure on Noah. Maybe have Taj Gibson defend Trevor Ariza, who isn’t an offensive force, and Gibson could compete with Ariza on the boards rather than switching Augustin off a scoring guard. Perhaps using Mike Dunleavy more. Maybe putting a lesser defender on Ariza to lure Washington into going to him instead of their better offensive players.

Dunleavy after a slow start in the first half had 11 points in the third quarter. He played briefly in the fourth quarter and was scoreless with one shot. Perhaps use him on Ariza with Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler.

I don’t expect to see major changes.

It’s not like the Bulls suddenly are going to start putting out reserves who haven’t played before. Sorry Jimmer fans. It perhaps was no coinidence the players who had the most difficulties getting into the playoff games were the Wizards’ first timers, John Wall and Bradley Beal, and the Bulls with limited playoff experience, Augustin and Dunleavy.

Overconfident? Too cocky? Not exactly a great plan from the fourth seed. But sometimes the other guy hits first.

“We played with an edge all year long,” said Dunleavy. “We just went too many spurts last night without it. First playoff game; I guess that stuff happens. Once we got stuff together and got that 13-point lead in the second half, we dropped off again. So we can’t have too many of those in the next one. We definitely didn’t underestimate them in any way, certainly knowing how well they did the first couple times around with us. I would just like to think that we did a good job on the two perimeter guys, and didn’t do a good enough job on the other two. Hopefully we can flip that. Sometimes you can come out and have all the energy in the world and just be overexcited, overzealous, fumble the ball away and miss open shots. Sometimes you can try and be a little too calm and not have enough, so hopefully we’ve got our Game 1 uneasiness out of the way and be ready to go Game 2.”

Which probably is going to be the plan.

Do it, but do it better and harder and faster and for longer. And with more force. Let it be with you instead of them, Yoda master Thibs will instruct.

Oh, yeah, and quit complaining if it doesn’t go your way. Competitors don’t do that.

“You’re in the playoffs,” Thibodeau pointed out. “Games will be called differently. You have to adjust accordingly. It shouldn’t take away from our technique. That’s something we work on every day. Concentrate on your body position. Do your job. Get it done. Offensively, if you feel like you’re driving the ball and not getting calls, you have to make sure you drive it harder. Some of them are 50-50 calls. I thought the game was officiated the same way for both teams. It was called tightly. And you have to adjust accordingly.”

After all, leading by 13, still leading with under six minutes left, tied with four minutes left. At home in the playoffs. You can’t finish off that game without a lot of adjustments? C’mon.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: