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Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau won’t change starters, but closing is another story

Bulls center Joakim Noah said changing starting lineup wouldn’t make difference. | PSullivan~AP

Bulls center Joakim Noah said changing the starting lineup wouldn’t make a difference. | Pat Sullivan~AP

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Updated: December 25, 2012 6:25AM

Center Joakim Noah made his vote known.

When informed after the Bulls’ 93-89 loss Wednesday against the Houston Rockets that coach Tom Thibodeau would entertain the idea of altering the starting lineup, Noah was against it.

“Those aren’t things that I can control as a player, but I don’t think changing the lineup is going to make a difference,’’ Noah said. “We have to execute better down the stretch; that’s what I think.’’

That vote must’ve carried some weight because the starting lineup will not change.

That’s good news for Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer, who were under the microscope during the last three losses.

The fourth quarter, however, remains a work in progress with playing time up for grabs.

It’s simple: Play defense, and you’ll stay on. Don’t turn the ball over, and you’ll stay on. Basically, do what’s asked of you, and you’ll stay on.

“We have to stay disciplined, have to stay attached and can’t make things up,’’ Thibodeau said of the continued fourth-quarter breakdowns. “The fourth quarter is different. Your intensity is higher. We have to stay disciplined on the defensive end, then understand on the offensive end that everything is going to happen quicker. You can’t thread the needle in those situations. You have to make the first simple pass. We have to know what our looks are in order, and that’s something we have to work on.’’

The next test comes Saturday night in Milwaukee, the final road stop in the 11-day, five-game Circus Trip.

Thibodeau has a to-do list for his team:

† Make it simple: Thibodeau stressed defense over and over again on this road trip, especially late in games, and the Bulls’ defense again will be tested by a Bucks team that is sixth in the league in scoring at 101.2 points per game. In other words, another test for a defensive team that’s trying to find its way.

† Step up, Hinrich: Here’s a list of the point guards Hinrich has been matched up against the last four games — Goran Dragic, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Jeremy Lin, and now he ends the trip by drawing Brandon Jennings, who was averaging just over 16 points but scored 25 against the Bulls in a game last season. It would be nice if Hinrich could get his offense working, just to wear down all these talented guards on the other side of the ball.

† Don’t take shortcuts: Thibodeau seemed to be challenging his team.

“There’s a lot of things that go into winning, and you have to do things the right way,’’ Thibodeau said. “We have to do that for 48 minutes. We can’t pick and choose. We have to be tied together the entire time. We have to be aware, be alert, make multiple efforts, stay on bodies. We can’t do the easy thing; we have to do the tough things.’’

Starting jobs might not be on the line, but trust is. Considering the Bulls’ locker room is made up of players with a lot of pride, earning that trust means a lot more at this point.

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