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Bulls fall to Wizards; Thibs defends players’ minutes

Bulls forward Carlos Boozer who had 12 points tries get around Wizards center MarcGortfourth quarter. | Susan Walsh/AP

Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who had 12 points, tries to get around Wizards center Marcin Gortat in the fourth quarter. | Susan Walsh/AP

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Updated: February 19, 2014 9:52AM

WASHINGTON — The nation’s capital was a good place for a history lesson Friday, and coach Tom Thibodeau provided one hours before the Bulls lost 96-93 to the Wizards at the Verizon Center.

Knowing his critics like to second-guess his distribution of minutes, specifically Jimmy Butler playing a franchise-record 60 in the triple-overtime road victory Wednesday against the Magic, Thibodeau went on the defensive.

“I think when you look at that, you have to compare apples to apples,’’ Thibodeau said. “If you look at the top small forwards and look at where their minutes are, they all average 37-38 minutes. So if you want to say [former Bulls forward Luol Deng] played 20 seconds a game more than he should’ve, so be it. Overall, our minutes are way below what normal starters do. And if you guys study the history of the league, which I’m sure you do, you’d see that [Michael] Jordan and [Scottie] Pippen well into their 30s were playing huge minutes. So I’m trying to be like Phil [Jackson].’’

Jordan averaged over 40 minutes three times, and in his final season with the Bulls, he averaged 38.8 minutes. Pippen had five seasons in which he averaged over 38 minutes.

“Yes, [Jordan and Pippen] did,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I know. I sat on that other bench. I was always sitting there, saying, ‘When’s he going to take them out?’ He never did. And you know what? That was great coaching. And [Spurs coach Gregg] Popovich was the same way with [Tim] Duncan early in his career. Pop and Phil are two of the best, maybe the greatest, of all time. How you pace your team is important.

“It’s easy to look at a box score and say, ‘Oh, that’s too much.’ But what you don’t see is the days off in practice. You don’t see what you have a guy do in practice. You may not have contact in practice. You may do shooting. You may do film. There’s a lot of things that go into it. I think I have a pretty good understanding after 24 years of how to pace a team.’’

In the Bulls’ second loss to the Wizards in less than a week, it wasn’t about minutes or workload as much as what Washington did down the stretch and what the Bulls (18-20) failed to do.

A Marcin Gortat lay-in with 2:46 left put the Wizards up 96-91. The Bulls cut the lead to three but wasted two possessions after that.

After a Taj Gibson miss, then a loose-ball foul by the Wizards, the Bulls got the ball back with 10.4 seconds left, trailing 96-93.

Mike Dunleavy came off a screen, caught the ball, then passed it back to Butler, the inbounder.

“I got open; unfortunately, we were a little too close to the sideline, and the inbounder’s guy jumped to me,’’ Dunleavy said. “I didn’t have a shot, so I passed it to Jimmy.

“Ten seconds is a lot of time; you can get a two there. I just wasn’t going to chuck one up.’’

Butler tried to shake Nene with the clock winding down, but he couldn’t and hoisted one up. Nene blocked it.


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