May 6, 2013, 12:31 PM EDT
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.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT
Woodson is an assistant with the Clippers now.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Mar 26, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Timofey Mozgov in a backward jersey? Timofey Mozgov in a backward jersey
Mar 26, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT
Houston own’s Llull’s draft rights
Mar 26, 2015, 1:06 PM EDT
Jazz center makes it look easy
Mar 26, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT
Thunder guard again confrontational in post-game interview
Mar 26, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT
Jazz guard just suddenly went down
Mar 26, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
Spurs big man apparently earned $100 by making 3-pointer against Thunder
Mar 26, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT
Referees miss blatant out of bounds call, clock momentarily stops before restarting
Mar 26, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT
The best matchup of the weekend may be Jakob Poeltl vs. Jahlil Okafor.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:08 AM EDT
That might be fair, but what about all Love’s reasons for being frustrated with Cavaliers?
Mar 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Mavericks owner reverses course
Mar 26, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Raptors crumble in fourth quarter during loss to Chicago
Mar 26, 2015, 2:29 AM EDT
Lionel Messi was hanging out at the most entertaining NBA game of the night.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:15 AM EDT
Not a good look
Mar 25, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Lakers win and hurt their draft position, Timberwolves win and help theirs
Mar 25, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT
Those are no slouches defending the rim against the Rockets star
Mar 25, 2015, 10:02 PM EDT
Where was Marcin Gortat?
Mar 25, 2015, 9:19 PM EDT
Clippers-Knicks game going exactly how you’d think
Mar 25, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
Hornets in thick of playoff race, but this chance for Price to become head coach
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