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Bulls sticking to the plan as series shifts to Washington
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Apr 23
Though the Bulls head to Washington facing a 2-0 deficit in their best of seven playoff series, don’t expect any major changes in Friday’s Game 3.
Twice Chicago has built a double digit lead in the second half but been unable to hold on for a victory.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has watched film and hopes his team will learn from those games. But he wants them to move forward and get ready for the next one. That’s been Chicago’s approach all season and Thibodeau said it isn’t about to change.
As for the offensive struggles down the stretch, Thibodeau got down to the basics.
“We’ve got to make shots,” said Thibodeau. “We looked at our shots and I thought our screening was good. It’s a make or miss league. If you’re open, you take your shot. If D.J. [Augustin] is pulling up for an open three and he misses, those are the shots he’s made all year. You’re not going to say, ‘D.J., don’t shoot that.’”
Augustin, who tallied a team-high 25 points with seven assists in Game 2, proved to be clutch in the second half of the season, particularly in the fourth quarter. Though he was on the floor as the Bulls went cold on Tuesday, Thibodeau is no less confident in him or anyone else on the roster.
“When they have their shots, I want them taking them,” said Thibodeau. “No hesitation. Shoot the ball.
“The difference between winning and losing is very small,” added Thibodeau. “[Bradley] Beal made two big scramble threes in the fourth quarter that were basically off loose balls. That’s the difference in winning and losing right there. We have to finish better and we go from there.”
Bulls forward Taj Gibson agrees that both games were there for the taking. But it was the little things that led to Chicago being unable to secure the win.
“We’ve got to finish games,” said Gibson. “We watched the film and it came down to us being a fingernail short every time. Guys were diving for the ball and scrambling around. They just made some great plays. Playoff-style basketball, I guess. [Thibodeau] said we’ve just got to keep going hard. We’ve got to make adjustments but it all comes down to the effort and energy.”
Thibodeau acknowledges that his team is an undermanned one and its margin of error is smaller than it was at the start of the season. That dynamic has been magnified in the first two games of the postseason, but Gibson said the team won’t let it weigh on their minds.
“We can’t really think like that,” he said. “When you start thinking like that, you’re questioning yourself, your jumper, your rebounding and your whole team mentality. Everything like that is behind us.
“You’ve got to rock with what you’ve got,” Gibson added. “We’ve got to play with whoever is out there on the court.”
The Bulls also believe that some of what has happened in the fourth quarters of Games 1 and 2—missing open looks, turnovers, and not converting at the free throw line—are not typical of this team. They plan to rely on what has worked for them, coupled with a consistent effort throughout.
“This is the playoffs,” said Thibodeau. “We’ve been down before. You’ve got to approach it the same way. Sometimes things are going your way and sometimes they’re not. You’ve got to work your way out of things. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”
While finishing strong is of the utmost importance, getting off to a good start will also be a priority in Game 3. In Game 2, the Wizards enjoyed their largest lead of the game, 29-12, late in the opening quarter. Though the Bulls were able to come back and lead by as many as 10 points, in the end, it wasn’t enough
Thibodeau knows it will take a collective effort for the Bulls to get back into the series and he remains confident as ever in his team.
“We have more than enough to win with,” he said. “We’ve done it all year and I have the belief that we can do it again.”