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Bulls win over Nets cements Thibodeau as one of league’s best tacticians

May 6, 2013, 12:31 PM EDT

Tom Thibodeau AP

When Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Brooklyn Nets he wanted a splashy name as head coach. They had a conversation with then Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau, a guy seen as a defense-first coach, but the only full interview they did was with former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson. He was their man.

Except Johnson got canned midway through this past season. P.J. Carlesimo took over a roster that had more talent on it than their eventual first-round opponent, the Chicago Bulls. Coached by that very same Tom Thibodeau.

And Thibodeau took the Nets to school.

The Bulls win in this series cements Thibodeau’s name up with the best tacticians in the game right now. There are other good coaches out there, smart ones who get a lot out of their teams (guys like George Karl, Rick Adelman) but as a pure tactician it is Gregg Popovich and Thibodeau then everyone else.

Thibodeau gets more out of the talent on his team than any coach in the league; he gets them to play with passion almost every night. He works harder than everyone and his team is molded in his image.

The Bulls won that first-round series because Thibodeau recognized the need to contain Deron Williams after Game 1 and recognized he had the guy in Kirk Hinrich to do it — D-Will shot 6-of-23 the next two games with 14 total assists with Hinrich dogging him. But it was more than that, it was the rest of the Bulls taking away back cuts and easy passing lanes. The Bulls took the paint back. By Game 2 Chicago was fully prepared for what the Nets wanted to do and the Nets never could fully counterpunch against a healthy Bulls defense.

The key to the series for the Bulls was winning a dramatic triple-overtime Game 4, where a Bulls team that is modeled after its coach would not give up and was tougher than the Nets.

But when Hinrich went down with a calf injury, when Luol Deng was out after needing a spinal tap, when Taj Gibson was banged up, when Nate Robinson was throwing up during timeouts in Game 6 due to the flu — and all that doesn’t even mention Derrick Rose —the Nets got back in it. Brooklyn won games five and six because the Bulls were just too banged up.

But in the deciding Game 7 the key was a Bulls offense designed to attack a soft Nets defense — Carlos Boozer blew by Andray Blatche, Marco Belinelli drove by Gerald Wallace with little trouble for a key basket. Joakim Noah outplayed a more gifted offensive center in Brook Lopez.

The Bulls had enough healthy bodies and that with their schemes was too much for a Nets team where the total was never greater than the sum of their parts. The Nets were predictable and Thibodeau recognized and exploited it.

Now Thibodeau and the Bulls take on the Miami Heat in a real matchup problem for them (and for everyone, the Heat have won 40 of their last 42 games). But the Bulls have had some success against the Heat by going inside to Boozer and Noah, by playing to their strengths and defending hard. And you know they will do it again.

The Bulls don’t have enough to win this series, but you know they are going to make the Heat work for every win.

  1. DonRSD - May 6, 2013 at 12:42 PM


    • 91devinhester23 - May 6, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      weather looks fair today

    • basketballhooper1 - May 6, 2013 at 3:10 PM


  2. caeser12 - May 6, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    This Man can coach, period.

    • biasedhomer - May 6, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      True, but why did they lose to the Sixers last season in the playoffs?

      • hwatt - May 6, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        DRose going down took the heart and soul out the team that year. They were going for a championship, then when that happened it was like “what’s the point”. This year, expectations are more even. And Boozer is earning his contract through the playoffs, for the first time ever.

      • fanofevilempire - May 6, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        he has to get his own ring, he welcome in Chi town is wearing down on
        his two best players.

      • boondocksaint224 - May 6, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        They lost to the 76ers because both Rose and Noah were out, and Deng was injured.

      • gmsingh - May 6, 2013 at 8:29 PM

        Who cares if they lost to the Sixers last year? Name another coach in the history of the NBA that has done better in his second year as coach.

  3. jeffw - May 6, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    The Bulls definitely overachieved in round 1 based on their injuries. Unfortunately that just earned them the right to get swept by the Heat…

  4. lakerluver - May 6, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Tom T. is obviously a very good coach. The Bulls are not the most talented team but they play well together and always compete. When he was Boston’s assistant the C’s defense was downright scary. I wonder if my LAKERS can swap Mike D for Tom T.

  5. comeonnowguys - May 6, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    You could tell Game 1 both how good a coach Thibs is, and how absolutely terrible a coach Vinny Del Negro was/still is.

    • fanofevilempire - May 6, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      was Vinny a bad coach when Clips were winning 17 straight?

      • comeonnowguys - May 6, 2013 at 3:41 PM

        Coaching up Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to be talented is tough work, I’ll grant you that.


      • fanofevilempire - May 6, 2013 at 7:07 PM

        I guess he was.

  6. 1historian - May 6, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    You judge a coach by one standard – what results he gets from what he’s got.

    Given that, Thibodeau (along with Popovich) is flat out the best coach in the league.

  7. iowahbr - May 6, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    This will sound silly but with Thibodeau getting so much out of so little does he hurt himself as to how much the Bulls front office is willing to pay to get them to the next level. Losing Aski hurt the bench and there has been very little said about the disappearance of Rip H. during the play-offs (my guess good-bye Rip). the Bulls need a 2nd do it yourself scoring threat against a team like the Heat and while Butler has made major strides in all aspects of his game this year that is not his approach. Nor is that the best side of Deng’s game. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what develops.

    • hwatt - May 6, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      Bulls have tight pursestrings, always have, always will. You can only splurge on so many guys before you can’t afford the old bench Mob again. That’s how we end up with Rip Hamilton… and Ben Wallace back in the day.

      Omg, Paul Pierce is about to be a Bull. You heard it hear first.

      • solomon151 - May 6, 2013 at 3:58 PM


  8. azarkhan - May 6, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Absolutely a great win by the Bulls. They showed a ton of heart and grit. I hope they beat the Heat.

  9. erckle31 - May 6, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    This man needs to be Coach of the Year and it’s not even close. It’s as if injuries make this team better (not really, but you get what I mean).

    • money2long - May 6, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      there are a few deserving coaches, and i’ll be perfectly fine with thibs and in particular mark jackson.

  10. joj0420 - May 6, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Bulls beat the heat this year a few times if I’m not mistaken?! Even ended the streak we have the best chance in the east to beat them even if drose is still being a pansy

  11. brutl - May 6, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Bulls fans are delusional about their chances, but at least they’re loyal to their team.
    Thibs is a great coach but he wears his players out. Its not just a coincidence that half the team always seems banged up.

  12. jimmymarlinsfan - May 6, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Lets go Heat!

    • Great Caesar's Ghost - May 6, 2013 at 9:42 PM

      Heat will sweep Bulls. Lebron will have 7 titles when it’s all said and done, one more than Jordan. Who knows maybe he can out do Russell and get 12. Yes the Bulls have a great coach but Miami doesn’t even need to try to beat these guys.


      • bougin89 - May 7, 2013 at 10:28 AM

        I’m guessing you wrote this with your sarcasm font on. Otherwise all I have to say is ignorance is bliss.

  13. solomon151 - May 6, 2013 at 3:59 PM


  14. stayhigh_247 - May 6, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Thibs, has proven that you really dont need superstars to get it done. Give him a roster of capable, healthy guys and I bet he could win a ring. Having D Rose is just a luxury for this guy. He exposes guys like Damphony for what they are. Imagine Thibs coaching Kobe and Dwight, CP3 and Blake, he’d make the T Wolves a contender. Talent means nothing without good coaching just ask the Clippers..

  15. stayhigh_247 - May 6, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Doug Collins had Mike, Scottie and Horace and still couldn’t get it done, in walks Phil Jackson……Spike was wrong it wasn’t the shoes… it was the coach

  16. yuwannano - May 6, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    Pops, Thibs and….Thibs. The Holy Trinity of NBA Coaching!

  17. steelers4385 - May 6, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    Id like to slap Rose around like a housewife who leaves the kitchen without permission.

  18. glink123 - May 6, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    “Bulls fans are delusional about their chances against the Heat” — Bulls beat Heat 93-86 in Game 1 stunner. lmfao.

  19. glink123 - May 7, 2013 at 1:17 AM

    “Heat will sweep Bulls” — LMFAO!

  20. asublimeday - May 7, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    Ahhhhhhh hahahahaha screw all of you

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