When looking back at Games 2 through 4 of the first round match-up between the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers, something more than the second-half faltering of Chicago’s players stands out.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau and his lack of meaningful game-to-game adjustments have also been under the microscope as criticism about the Bulls’ awful playoff showings continues to grow.
With a series-ending injury to Derrick Rose and one likely to keep Joakim Noah out of Game 5, according the Associated Press, Thibodeau’s response hasn’t looked anything like a coach who recognizes the personnel left and how to maximize their talent. Instead, his response has merely been to insert the immediate reserve player and continue to play the exact same way.
Some might call this a coach’s confidence in his players to step up and fill in like the team needs them to, but when it results in three consecutive losses that pushed the No. 1 team to the brink of elimination by the lowest seed in the postseason, it borders on insanity.
One of Thibodeau’s biggest blunders is his refusal to go deep into his bench when it is clear that the usual guys are not stepping up.
CJ Watson not playing well? Put in John Lucas.
Lucas is struggling? Put Watson back in.
Who’s Mike James?
Jrue Holiday getting by every defender that’s in front of him? If only there were a long, athletic defender on the roster that could give Holiday a different look.
Hey, Jimmy Butler, do you know of any long, athletic guys who can be used to defend Holiday?
Kyle Korver can’t break free and get a clean look at the rim? Run the same play for Korver again.
No, Rip Hamilton can’t play in the fourth quarter; Korver’s in the game right now.
And that same beat goes on and on and on until the fourth quarter buzzer sounds. The Bulls lose again because they didn’t execute their coach's exact same failed game-plan against this Sixers team.
When asked about if he’ll make some different decisions like the one regarding Hamilton’s fourth quarter play, Nick Friedell over at ESPN.com quotes Thibodeau replying with, “We’ll see how it’s going. Depends on how the groups are playing. But if he’s playing well…”
That non-answer is indicative of Thibodeau’s now-evolving reputation from being a coach of consistency to a coach of stubbornness.
It was permissible to give him a pass on occasion during regular season as the circumstances of the scheduling were so unique that a lot of head coaches had to make certain decisions just to grind through it.
Now the whole new season of the playoffs is here, and that whole new season requires a whole new way of doing things.
If Thibodeau thinks that he can do the exact same thing he did in Games 2 through 4, all while keeping the Bulls’ season alive, he’s not only mulish but downright idiotic.