CHICAGO – Maybe a $35,000 fine from the league office was enough to change Tom Thibodeau’s tune when it comes to officiating in the NBA playoffs.
Three days after he insisted his team wouldn’t get any calls against Miami, Thibodeau said the series isn’t about officiating – and never has been.
The Bulls were whistled for 10 technical fouls and had three players ejected in the series’ first three games. Although Thibodeau said his players can’t get wrapped up “in the things that are unimportant,” he knows the Bulls – still playing without guards Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich – can’t afford to change their playing style. Forward Luol Deng was shifted to active status just before Monday’s game.
“For us, we’re shorthanded, we understand we have to do it collectively and we have to do it with great intensity,” Thibodeau said before Monday night’s Game 4 at the United Center. “That’s our only chance.”
Numbers game: Four Bulls starters – Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler – are averaging at least 40 minutes a game, but given what they’re up against and the limited nature of his team’s roster, Thibodeau doesn’t have plans to expand his bench.
With Rose, Hinrich and Deng out, Carlos Boozer along with reserves Taj Gibson, Marquis Teague and Nazr Mohammed have been the extent of Thibodeau’s players to see floor time. Thibodeau said much of his minutes game plan has to do with match-ups.
Miami’s LeBron James is averaging 45 minutes, forward Chris Bosh is on the floor for 42 and guard Dwyane Wade is playing 35 while Ray Allen is coming off the bench as a valuable reserve.
“You have to be concerned about what’s going on in games,” Thibodeau said. “It’s the playoffs and you have days off in between [games] and so most teams have a seven- or eight-man rotation right now.”
Getting defensive: Noah was named to the NBA All-Defensive first team Monday, becoming the first Bulls player to earn the honor since the 1997-98 season when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were named to the first team.
Noah joined Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, Miami’s LeBron James, New York’s Tyson Chandler and L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul on the first team. But as pleased as Thibodeau was with Noah’s performance, Thibodeau said he believes the 28-year-old center still has room to grow.
“I think down the road, Joakim has a very good chance of being Defensive Player of the Year,” Thibodeau said. “[He has the] ability to defend all five positions, every aspect of the game – individual defense, team defense, rebounding, multiple effort – he’s a very unique player.”