Tom Thibodeau’s teams are always all about the defense. That’s why the Bulls’ coach wants his team to get back its tenacity in that department.
It worked for the Bulls last season without Derrick Rose. The star point guard missed the entire year with a knee injury, yet the Bulls finished second in the Central Division and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
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Well, Rose is out again with a knee injury. (This time, to the other knee.)
Most of the same cast returns, but the Bulls haven’t looked as organized as they did without Rose the first time. The latest example came in Saturday’s 97-93 loss in Cleveland.
They fell behind quickly early, caught up, then trailed by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter. Luol Deng (27 points, 11 assists) and rookie Tony Snell (18 points) fueled a late charge, but it wasn’t enough.
“Right now, I think we have to get our concentration back and our edge back defensively,” Thibodeau said. “I think everyone is worried offensively about how we’re going to score. I like what we’re doing offensively.
“I thought the guys shared the ball and made plays for each other, turnovers were low and we shot a good enough percentage but the defense and the rebounding really hurt us so we have to get that straightened out.”
The Bulls dropped to 7-8 overall and 2-8 on the road.
“We have to do better,” said forward Taj Gibson, who added 18 points off the bench. “We’re too sluggish starting games and we just have to do better — that’s the main thing. … We just have to come in straight, watch some more film and get things right.”
Defensively, the Bulls allowed Cavs center Andrew Bynum, coming off his own knee issues, to put together his best game of the season. He scored 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“It’s just post-up,” Thibodeau said. “We have to have the discipline of when to get in and when to get out. Right now, you have to make a second, third and fourth effort and the ball pressure has to be better. I think (Bynum is ) a tough matchup, but we have to help more appropriately.” Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO