Thibs keys only on good in win over Sixers

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
10:55
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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PHILADELPHIA -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn't do what he usually does after Wednesday's night win over the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.

He didn't wallow in the minutiae of how his team could have played much better against a weaker opponent. He didn't sweat all the little things that the Bulls did wrong, or the fact that it appeared throughout most of the night that the Bulls were playing down to the level of their competition and not executing properly.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsFor a change, Tom Thibodeau didn't on focus on negatives. After a hard-fought contest against the lowly 76ers, the Bulls coach heaped praise on his team for doing just enough to get a win.
Instead of focusing on negatives, Thibodeau did something he doesn't often do during his postgame media sessions:

He focused on the fact his team won the game and praised his hard-working bunch for sticking together despite a solid effort from what could end up being one of the worst teams in recent history. Indeed, the Sixers have now lost 22 games in a row.

"The thing to me is to find a way to win," Thibodeau said. "I'm looking at where we are right now and the things we're doing. Each game, each day, we want to get better.

"Tonight, based on what I've watched preparing for these guys, I knew we were going to have to play the whole game. That it was going to be very difficult to get a big lead. So you have to have the mindset and the toughness to get through all that."

The Bulls have proven they are plenty tough enough to win games in this league, and they showed that toughness down the stretch in this game by hitting enough big shots to close it down.

Thibodeau's reaction is interesting because he demands so much from his players on a day-to-day basis. He didn't sound disappointed that his team appeared to sleepwalk through much of the game. He knows how much of a grind an NBA season can be, and he was nervous before this one started because he didn't want to be part of the team that allowed the Sixers to snap their streak.

Thibodeau's players may not have carried out his orders exactly as he would have liked, but they got the job done and the veteran coach wants that to be the focus as his team gets ready for a showdown against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

"I would say [we played] down to competition, so to speak," said Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. "I think we were a little passive on offense a little bit. Hence, a few of the turnovers. I think we didn't guard the way we're capable of."

But as Butler continued to speak, he uttered the phrase that Thibodeau wants his players to remember most out of this night: "Wins are hard to come by."

The beauty of Thibodeau's hard-charging approach is that every so often he's able to take his foot off the gas just long enough to allow his players the opportunity to enjoy a victory. There are plenty of examples of times he has lit them up in the past after wins because he didn't like the way they played; this time he chose to take a different path.

The crucial component in that equation is that he's taught his players exactly what he wants and what he expects night after night. He may be hard on them sometimes, but they know why. They've gotten to a point where they know what they've done wrong before he says a word many times.

That's one of the main reasons why the Bulls have remained so successful this season. And it's a big reason why they were able to find a way to win on Wednesday without having the type of consistent performance Thibodeau usually demands.

"We knew it would be this type of game," Bulls guard D.J. Augustin said. "The last couple teams [the Sixers] played, it was close games. We knew it would be this type of game. We just tried to fight them to the end. It was a fight, a real fight."

It was the type of fight Thibodeau loves. And the type of fight he's come to expect from a team that finds ways to win even on an off night.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
20.9 3.3 1.5 39.6
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.9
AssistsD. Rose 5.1
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 1.9