With Derrick Rose at center court before the game, you would think that would have been enough to inspire the team to a victory and a 2-0 lead in the series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately it didn't work out, and from the looks of the way Philly ran roughshod over the Chicago Bulls in the second half, it might be time to start worrying.
I know it's only one game, but Sixers coach Doug Collins made a couple of key changes Tuesday, inserting Evan Turner into the starting lineup, and doubling Bulls shooters coming off screens in the second half and not giving them room to shoot.
It's up to the Bulls' ballyhooed leader Tom Thibodeau to step up and prove he's not just a regular-season wonder and a postseason dud.
After the game, Thibodeau put the target on himself saying, "It starts with me. I've got to have us ready to play better."
Truer words were never spoken. The game was an embarrassment in front of a packed house at the United Center hoping to be consoled with a win after the heartbreak of losing Rose.
Suddenly, the 18-9 regular-season record without Rose doesn't look so impressive. It's not as easy to win in the playoffs when the pressure is on. It's win or go home, and if the Bulls don't play better in Philadelphia than they did during Game 2, that's exactly what they will be doing.
Even without Rose, the talent level on the Bulls should be enough to overcome the athleticism of Philadelphia. You could argue Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah are better than anyone on the Sixers.
The Bulls are a veteran team, and they have played in Thibodeau's system for two years now, so there should be no excuses.
It was disgraceful to get outscored 36-14 in the third quarter. I thought I was watching a dunking exhibition by Philadelphia the way they kept beating the Bulls defenders down court and getting behind the defense.
There was no energy out there. The players seemed lifeless, and in a statement game, they made a statement their fans didn't want to see.
You can question Thibodeau's coaching in the postseason.
Last year, the Indiana Pacers, with an interim coach in Frank Vogel, gave them everything they could handle despite losing four games to one. That series was a lot closer than it sounds, and a bounce here or there and the Bulls could have been bounced in the first round.
Atlanta took the Bulls to six games with an inexperienced rookie point guard in Jeff Teague giving them fits.
In the Eastern Conference finals, Miami adjusted after the Game 1 blowout and Thibs was clueless how to counter. LeBron started guarding Rose in the fourth quarter and the Bulls were sunk. They could barely get a shot off, and we're talking the rest of the series, not just one game.
A great coach doesn't let that happen. A great coach also doesn't go down without expending all of his bullets.
To let Kurt Thomas waste away on the bench against Miami until the final game was just wrong. You could see the spark he gave them when he finally got in. If it had happened a few games earlier, the outcome might have been different.
Thibodeau is up for an extension on his contract after leading the Bulls to the best record in the league the past two seasons, but the Bulls brass seems to be dawdling. Is there a reason for that?
Despite what you heard from them, they can't be happy with what happened to their prize investment. Other than winning a title, nothing matters more to the Bulls than taking care of Rose and not putting him in a precarious situation.
That's exactly what he did leaving him in the game Saturday. The shortest amount of time any team in the league this year overcame a 12-point deficit was 1:53, so the Bulls were in no danger of losing if he pulled Rose to save him from himself with a couple of minutes left.
For those who blame Rose and say he should have just pulled up and took a jump shot on the play he was injured, that's going against the nature of the player. It's up to his coach to watch out for him and Thibodeau failed.
I'm not going to panic after one bad game, but there is a playoff pattern brewing. Thibodeau needs to step up and show why he's so highly thought of, because losing this series to the Sixers is not acceptable.
The regular season no longer matters. It's a "what have you done for me lately" league.
The Bulls didn't show up in the second half Tuesday, and I'm still waiting for the Coach of the Year candidate to show up in the playoffs.
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