Bulls employ same winning approach as postseason opens


Apr 18

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau understands that two significant points of emphasis in the NBA playoffs are being prepared and knowing your opponent well.

Fortunately for his team, those are two of his biggest strengths. Furthermore, Thibodeau’s step-by-step approach is not about to change as his team gets ready for Game 1 against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night.

“They’re physical and they know how to score down low. They like to run and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Gibson of the Wizards. “It’s up to us to try and slow them down.”

“They’re physical and they know how to score down low. They like to run and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Gibson of the Wizards. “It’s up to us to try and slow them down.”

“It’s one play at a time and one game at a time,” said Bulls forward Taj Gibson. “We feel that we have the opportunity to do something special. We believe in the locker room and we believe in going far. But it comes down to one play at a time, really.

“In the playoffs, everything gets shrunk down to how hard guys play, knowing the play calls, aggression and a lot of heart,” added Gibson. “Without those things, you’re going to have a rough night.”

Chicago and Washington met three times during the regular season. The Wizards won twice in January, while the Bulls recorded a blowout victory on the road earlier this month.

Gibson said teams remember the last game they played, but they also tend to make adjustments for the next meeting, which is a key element in the postseason. That’s exactly why he likes having Thibodeau’s direction and focus on knowing the play calls, something the team drilled repeatedly during Friday’s practice.

While the Bulls have home court advantage in the opening round, Thibodeau noted that playing well is necessary for that to be effective. And it won’t come easy against a Wizards team that finished with a 22-19 road record, tied with Miami and Toronto for the best mark in the conference.

“One of Washington’s strengths is that they’ve shown to be a very good road team,” said Thibodeau. “So we have to be ready right from the start of the game and play with great intensity.”

“It’s important, but at the same time we just have to go out there and take care of business,” said Gibson of home court advantage. “It’s always good to have your how crowd behind you early, but they can only do so much. It’s up to us to have the energy and right mindset, know the play calls, and just play aggressive.”

This marks the Bulls’ sixth straight postseason appearance. Additionally, 12 players on Chicago’s playoff roster have postseason experience.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are returning to the postseason for the first time since the 2007-08. Two prominent members of their young but talented core, John Wall and Bradley Beal, have yet to play in the postseason. But Thibodeau discounted the notion that the difference in experience will give the Bulls a significant edge.

“I think they have a good mix of guys,” said Thibodeau. “There are young guys who obviously haven’t been in the league [that long] and you’ve got to get experience some time. I think what they’ve shown you is how much they’ve grown. When you look at Wall and Beal, they’re terrific. A guy like [Trevor] Ariza has been around. Nene has been around and [Andre] Miller has been in a ton of games. [Al] Harrington has been in a ton of games. I think they have a good blend. [Marcin] Gortat has been deep in the playoffs. So the notion that they don’t have experience, I don’t think that’s reality. Their team is very well put together and they have a lot of experience actually.”

As the regular season winded down, there was talk of how the Bulls were the team no one wanted to face in the playoffs. While Gibson says that’s nice to hear, it matters little come Sunday night. So the Bulls will control what they can control, and that starts with staying focused and remaining driven.

“We’re a humble yet still eager to win team,” said Gibson. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ve been far before and we want to get back there.”

Slowing down Wizards’ Wall a challenge

Wizards guard John Wall is enjoying his best professional season, having averaged career-highs in points (19.3 ppg), assists (8.8 apg) and field goal percentage (.433).

Thibodeau called Wall’s world-class speed “unique.”

“You’ve got to be ready,” said Thibodeau of facing Wall. “Your offense is a big part of it, having floor balance and being committed. Every aspect of your defense is going to be give guys tied together. You’re not going to slow him down one-on-one. We need five guys sprinting back to make him play in a crowd.”

Kirk Hinrich was a teammate of Wall’s during his rookie season in 2010-11 and he saw back then that the draft’s first pick overall had the tools to be special.

“It was evident potentially how good he could be when he first came into the league and he was really good as a rookie,” said Hinrich. “He’s a smart player and a good kid. I think it was just a matter of maturing over a couple years. He was an All-Star this year and had a great year. He poses a challenge for any team that faces him.”

Noah misses practice for bereavement

Joakim Noah missed Friday’s practice as he was in New York for bereavement. Thibodeau was hopeful that the All-Star center would rejoin the team for Saturday’s practice.

Audio—Tom Thibodeau talks about preparing for the Wizards (04.18.2014):

Audio—Kirk Hinrich on facing All-Star guard John Wall (04.18.2014):

Audio—Taj Gibson on getting ready for the Wizards (04.18.2014):

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