[Joakim Noah with an offensive tip-back.]
[Derrick Rose finds Joakim Noah.]
[And Noah dunks...]
I’ve been in enough postgame press conferences to know that coaches are rarely satisfied with their team’s performance, even when they win. They will say a win is a win, and they they proceed to go down the list of errors the team made and how they need to be corrected either in practice or by the next game. It’s safe to assume that it comes when the territory of being a head coach. You can revel in victory, but there are always teaching moments to be had.
After the Chicago Bulls methodically took the Washington Wizards apart 105-77 on Monday night, I wondered what Coach Tom Thibodeau was going to find wrong with his team’s performance. The Bulls never trailed, they held the Wizards to 30-percent shooting, and they scored nearly half of their points in the paint, which demoralized the young Wizards team. Still, with the minor exception of his team not taking care of the ball (Chicago had 17 turnovers and the Wizards had 15), Thibodeau was completely happy with his team’s play and their mindset.
The good feelings and vibes did not stop with the head coach, as Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer all had positive quotes about their play, about each other and about the overall direction of the team.
“It’s good to have the whole team back and we are working on getting back to where we want to be. Defensively we’re still working ‘Jo’ [Joakim Noah] back into it, and I think he’s doing a great job. He has a lot of energy and he’s being aggressive on both ends. I think everyone did a good job today. Our transition defense still needs a lot of work but I think other than that it is going to be really hard for other teams to score on us. Coach always tells us to have an edge, so we just try and take our opponents confidence from the start.”
“It’s really exciting playing on a team that is capable of doing something really special. We have to keep improving and understand that we have three huge games coming up. It was a good game today but we just have to think about the next one. Personally, I think coming off the injury I still have a ways to go but I feel every game I have been getting better and I’m just happy to be back out on the court. Win or lose you are always growing. We have great character on this team, and it’s on us to stay focused on the next task.”
Carlos Boozer on Noah:
“I think we talk [through] the game throughout the course of the game. I think the great thing about our chemistry, me and Jo, is that we’re both great competitors and we’re able to talk to each in other in a way that helps us get better while we’re on the job, while we’re still playing. And he is a monster. He’s a monster. The way he’s been playing since he’s been back, he missed two and a half, three months, whatever it was, the way he’s been playing, he’s been a monster. It’s impressive.”
After watching the way the Bulls defeated the Wizards, and then listening to how they sounded in a locker room, it occurred to me that this was a true playoff team. They know their weaknesses, they know their strengths, they compliment each other on and off the court, and most importantly, they execute in all facets of the game.
In the third quarter, Derrick Rose had 11 points. Not only did he help the Bulls stretch their lead from 13 to 21 points, but he also held John Wall without a basket. Boozer and Noah established their physicality throughout the game and bullied Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, all while combining to score 40 points and grab 21 rebounds. While Rose was on the perimeter and Boozer and Noah dominated inside, Luol Deng mastered the mid-range game to the tune of 21 points. When you add the play of Chicago’s bench, which combined for 29 points, nine assists and 18 rebounds, it added up to 28 point victory.
As for the Washington Wizards team the Bulls were playing? They are lottery bound, headed towards rebuilding mode for the third consecutive spring, and are struggling to find both consistency and an identity. And as Kyle Weidie investigated, they are far from that playoff mindset.
[Nick Young tries to calm Andray Blatche's frustrations with the referees.]