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Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau still sorting out fourth-quarter options

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau directs defense fourth quarter Chicago Bulls 97-91 loss OklahomCity Thunder Thursday November 8 2012 United

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau directs the defense in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls 97-91 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday November 8, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 15, 2012 6:29AM



According to his players, Tom Thibodeau is as detail-oriented as any coach they’ve been around.

After 21 years in the NBA, there isn’t much Thibodeau hasn’t seen. And he’s well-prepared for what he hasn’t, running through every possible scenario before every game.

So the fourth-quarter personnel decisions Thibodeau has made through the first seven games have been thought out. Most recently, he sat high-priced veteran Carlos Boozer in favor of Taj Gibson and used rookie Marquis Teague instead of Nate Robinson in the final quarter of the Bulls’ 101-95 home loss Monday to the Boston Celtics.

‘‘We have an idea of who we want to finish with,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But you have to look at the way the game is unfolding. When you’re behind and you need energy, you’re going to go with speed and quickness if you have to trap more. Whatever the game needs, you’re going to look to your bench and see if the answer is there.’’

It has become apparent the Bulls’ revamped bench already has given Thibodeau his answer. Monday wasn’t the first time Thibodeau sat some of his starters in favor of his reserves.

Without injured Derrick Rose, the Bulls don’t have a player capable of creating his own shot consistently. They have to rely on their defense down the stretch more than ever because they won’t be able to trade baskets with opponents in crunch time.

A five-game road trip, which starts Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns, might provide a glimpse into what Thibodeau plans to do until Rose returns. Three of the five teams the Bulls will face rank among the top half of the league in scoring.

All that has the Bulls’ reserves on high alert. That includes Teague, who said he wasn’t surprised to see fourth-quarter playing time against the Celtics.

‘‘I didn’t really think too much about it,’’ Teague said. ‘‘I just stayed out there and kept playing and did what coach Thibs told me to do.

‘‘It felt good just to get a chance to go out there and compete, especially against a team like the Boston Celtics. I was just playing confident.’’

Teague was in the rotation because starting point guard Kirk Hinrich missed the game with a strained right hip. Teague likely wouldn’t have played those minutes had Hinrich been available.

But even with a healthy Hinrich, it will be Thibodeau’s top priority to find the right combination of players down the stretch.

‘‘There’s a lot of new guys, different strengths and weaknesses,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We have to figure that out. But you have to do it quickly, and you can’t keep pushing it off.’’



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