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. Report: Warriors will keep Gerald Wallace

    Jul 8, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT

    Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Golden State has time to change its mind on forward acquired for David Lee

  2. Report: Heat willing to give away Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen

    Jul 7, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT

    Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen AP

    Miami also reportedly talking Shabazz Napier trade

  3. Report: Manu Ginobili getting two-year, $5.7 million contract from Spurs

    Jul 7, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Sounds as if San Antonio will use room exception on Ginobili, which helps the cause for re-signing Tim Duncan

  4. Warriors could save $48 million with David Lee-Gerald Wallace trade

    Jul 7, 2015, 8:54 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Even without stretching Wallace, that projects to be about $24 million in savings

  5. Report: Charlie Villanueva gets another minimum contract with Mavericks

    Jul 7, 2015, 7:42 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Villanueva will back up Dirk Nowitzki as floor-spreading power forward

  6. Report: Clippers signing Wesley Johnson to minimum contract

    Jul 7, 2015, 6:46 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    Clippers having a nice offseason – minus that one move that defines their offseason

  7. Report: Alan Anderson signs one-year, $4 million deal with Washington Wizards

    Jul 7, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks - Game Five Getty Images

    The one-year deal keeps their cap space alive next summer to chase Kevin Durant.

  8. Jason Smith reaches one-year deal with Orlando Magic

    Jul 7, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    New York Knicks V Philadelphia 76ers Getty Images

    The Knicks and Magic essentially swap reserve centers.

  9. J.J. Redick: Clippers deserve “F” for free agency after losing DeAndre Jordan

    Jul 7, 2015, 4:35 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Five Getty Images

    “Listen, we had one priority this summer, and that was to re-sign DJ, and we missed out on that.” — J.J. Redick on the Clippers summer.

  10. PBT Podcast: Free agency’s winners and losers

    Jul 7, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge

    The Lakers were not free agency losers like some think.

  11. Report: Boston Celtics agree to trade for David Lee for Gerald Wallace

    Jul 7, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT

    davidlee Getty Images

    Look for the Warriors to waive Wallace using the stretch provision.

  12. Lakers anticipate signing D’Angelo Russell in time for Summer League debut vs. Timberwolves

    Jul 7, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Draftees Shoot Los Angeles Lakers Draftees Shoot

    Julius Randle, L.A.’s first round pick last year, missed the Summer League opener due to a contract issue.

  13. Lou Williams ‘disappointed’ Raptors didn’t want him back

    Jul 7, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    The reigning Sixth Man of the Year signed a free agent deal with the Lakers.

  14. Dwyane Wade cites his scoring average when asked how long he’ll continue to play: ‘I think I’ll stay around a while’

    Jul 7, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    wade Getty Images

    Wade was the third leading scorer in the East last season, but missed 20 games due to a combination rest and injury.

  15. Mark Cuban fined $25K for commenting on free agents DeAndre Jordan, Wes Matthews

    Jul 7, 2015, 11:31 AM EDT

    Squawk Box - Season 20 Getty Images

    Teams aren’t allowed to discuss deals during the moratorium period, which is still going on.

  16. Report: Kevin Garnett to re-sign with Timberwolves

    Jul 7, 2015, 10:52 AM EDT

    Kevin Garnett AP

    KG will be back for a record 21st NBA season.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (4832)
  2. D. Jordan (3668)
  3. W. Matthews (3625)
  4. R. Hibbert (3441)
  5. R. Rondo (3285)
  1. D. West (3278)
  2. J. Lin (2863)
  3. K. Bryant (2832)
  4. D. Wade (2771)
  5. R. Lopez (2706)