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Thibodeau believes in his team
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Apr 28
Only eight teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit in NBA playoffs history, none since the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers eight years ago.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has such strong belief in his team that he feels it could be the ninth to accomplish such a feat.
The first step towards doing that will come on Tuesday as Chicago’s first round series against the Washington Wizards returns to the United Center for Game 5.
Following Monday’s practice at the Berto Center, Thibodeau explained his position.
“I’ve been around our team,” said Thibodeau. “This team has been up against it for two years. All we’re thinking about is tomorrow. Win the game. Take it step by step. Don’t get wrapped up in doomsday or any of that stuff. Just think about what we have to do to win.”
Following Sunday’s Game 4 loss in Washington, Thibodeau put part of the blame on himself, saying the Bulls were not as ready as he would have liked. He knows that in order for his team to turn things around, it has to be ready from tip off to the final buzzer.
“[It’s] the intensity of the game,” said Thibodeau, “like when they go 7-0 in the first minute and a half, and then it is 14-0 three and a half minutes in. You have to ask yourself, are we ready to play? You start with yourself and then you look at everybody. I think we’re all disappointed with the way we started. You can’t do that. We have to come out with more of an edge and we’ve got to be ready from the start. You’ve got to start fast, finish strong and play well throughout.”
Thibodeau also added that Mike Dunleavy, who suffered a bruised left thumb on Sunday, is good to go after practicing on Monday.
One bright spot for the Bulls in Game 4 was Taj Gibson, who came off the bench to turn in his finest professional performance with a game-high 32 points on 13 of 16 from the field.
Gibson is also not counting the Bulls out; rather, he’s confident his team is capable of finding a way to win three more against the Wizards.
“Without a doubt,” said Gibson. “You can’t get your head down. We know that we started the game off wrong last game. It’s been like that all series. But you look at how things could’ve went and we could be up 3-1. We gave away two tough ones at home early. We have to put that behind us and look forward to just trying to get one.”
Gibson hopes that the Bulls can come out with more intensity in Game 5, knowing that will fuel the home crowd and perhaps help Chicago build—and maintain—a lead.
“Just pick up our energy level,” said Gibson on what is necessary. “Come out with the right kind of spunk. We’re giving them too much confidence early. A team like that, you can’t give them confidence. You got to try slow them down any kind of way. Their guards are playing extremely well. They’re hitting a lot of long range threes, especially from the corner. It’s tough.”
An added scoring punch would certainly be welcomed as well. While Chicago struggled offensively down the stretch in Games 1 and 2, it was Dunleavy who unconsciously shot his way to 35 points in the Game 3 victory.
It was an effort not all that different than how D.J. Augustin carried the Bulls to victory a few times during the regular season.
While Augustin’s postseason numbers—15.5 points and 5.3 assists in 29.5 minutes—are up from his regular season averages, his shooting percentage has dropped from 40.1 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from three-point range to 32.3 and 31.8, respectively.
“Some were open that he missed; some were well-guarded that he missed,” said Thibodeau of Augustin. “But he can’t change. He’s got to be ready to shoot when he’s open and let it go when the second defender is there, make a play. He can do a lot of other things to help us. Sometimes it’s the pass, it’s breaking the defense down, getting easy baskets, things like that. Sometimes it’s putting the ball in the post and then when they dig and help, get yourself ready to shoot when the ball comes out.”
Augustin, though, like Gibson and Thibodeau, thinks the Bulls can get the job done.
“We just got to keep believing in ourselves,” said Augustin. “Keep doing what we’ve been doing all season and eventually something will start working. Just got to counter some of their defensive strategies and keep being aggressive.”
Among Washington’s defensive ploys has been placing small forward Trevor Ariza on Augustin, causing a mismatch in the Wizard’s favor.
“It’s big, he’s 6-7,” acknowledged Augustin. “He’s long and he’s a good defender. It’s hard to score on him and to even get the ball. But we can’t let that stop us and I can’t let that stop me.”
While the Bulls are known for their hard-nosed physical style of play, but it’s the Wizards who have been able to impose their will, particularly in the opening quarters. That’s got to change if Chicago is going to turn this series around, says Augustin.
“It’s the playoffs,” said Augustin. “We’ve got to find a way no matter what. We’ve got to come out and we have to try to be the bully [on Tuesday]. That’s the biggest key for us.”
Augustin said it comes down to believing, one game at a time, and one possession at a time.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all season, believing in ourselves,” said Augustin. “I don’t think we’d be where we are if we didn’t. We just believe and we believe we still have a chance to come back and win this series. We have that mindset.”
“We’ve been in a lot of different situations here,” said Thibodeau. “This is a tough-minded team. We know what we’ve got do. Make our corrections, be ready for the start of the game.
“I understand what the playoffs are all about,” added Thibodeau. “You’re talking about two evenly matched teams that games could’ve gone either way. You’ve got to make them go your way. They didn’t, but I believe we have a resilient group and I believe we will find a way.”
Audio—Tom Thibodeau on coming ready to play in Game 5 (04.28.2014):
Audio—Taj Gibson on what it will take to turn things around (04.28.2014):
Audio—D.J. Augustin on the Bulls continuing to believe (04.28.2014):