Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. PBT Extra matchup to watch: Dallas has to find a way to deal with Dwight Howard

    Apr 20, 2015, 9:59 PM EDT

    Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard

    He was simply the most dominant player in Game 1 of the Mavericks vs. Rockets series.

  2. Man arrested after fight over who is better, Michael Jordan or LeBron James

    Apr 20, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Charlotte Bobcats - Game Four Getty Images

    I could try to use logic and suggest that discussing the complete legacy of Jordan with the incomplete legacy of James is a fool’s errand. But this is the Internet, logic is not always welcome.

  3. PBT Extra matchup to watch: Marcus Smart needs to take on Kyrie Irving challenge

    Apr 20, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT

    Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving

    What you want to see as a Boston fan is Smart embrace the challenge.

  4. PBT Extra matchup to watch: Pelican guards need to stay with Curry, Thompson

    Apr 20, 2015, 5:32 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors - Game One New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors - Game One

    Also, Tyreke Evans is a game-time decision after his injury in the playoff opener.

  5. Clippers will rebrand this summer, new potential logos leaked

    Apr 20, 2015, 4:06 PM EDT

    Screen-shot-2015-04-17-at-10.35.11-PM

    The Clippers need a rebranding, but the leaked images are not winning over new fans.

  6. Report: One Trail Blazers player gives LaMarcus Aldridge just 50-50 chance of re-signing

    Apr 20, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies - Game One Getty Images

    And he’s not the only Portland player worried about Aldridge leaving

  7. Dirk Nowitzki trying to fix a working microphone highlight of NBA playoffs so far (video)

    Apr 20, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    Dirk Nowitzki Dirk Nowitzki

    And by fix, I mean smashing it and then tossing it aside when that doesn’t work

Featured video

Can Michael Carter-Williams slow Derrick Rose?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (5823)
  2. K. Durant (5662)
  3. C. Parsons (5575)
  4. P. George (5480)
  5. M. Conley (5269)
  1. T. Splitter (4979)
  2. L. James (4965)
  3. K. Bryant (4726)
  4. N. Batum (4628)
  5. S. Curry (4616)