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Fourth quarter isn’t Bulls’ only area of energy loss

Chicago Bulls Vs HoustRockets. Chicago Bulls Assistant Coach RAdams Head Coach Tom Thibodeau react Bull lost Christmas 120-97.  December

Chicago Bulls Vs Houston Rockets. Chicago Bulls Assistant Coach Ron Adams, and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau, react to the Bull lost on Christmas 120-97. December 25, 2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 29, 2013 6:35AM



There are definite talking points Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau likes to hit in his postgame media sessions.

His favorite, which he throws out frequently: ‘‘We have to be a 48-minute team. We have to understand that the fourth quarter is different, more intense.’’

Problem is, it’s not the final 12 minutes that have done in the Bulls in their 12 losses this season — it’s the first 36.

Slow starts, slow closes at the half, lethargic performances out of the locker room after halftime — those have been the problems in a 15-12 start. Even if the Derrick Rose-less Bulls had more of a killer instinct in the fourth quarter to finish teams off, as Thibodeau stresses, they’d only have two more wins.

The only fourth-quarter leads the Bulls have blown were a 72-66 lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 8 and an 80-63 lead against the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 26 before a meltdown of epic proportions.

Even the loss to the Thunder comes with an asterisk, though, as it was basically a team with two stars — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — running down a team that remains starless as long as Rose is not in uniform.

‘‘You got to play 48 minutes in this league, and we still have a long way to go in that area,’’ Thibodeau said after a one-sided 120-97 loss to the Houston Rockets on Christmas.

Asked specifically what the Bulls can work on to meet his expectations, specifically in closing teams out down the stretch, Thibodeau spoke in vague terms.

‘‘Better rebounding, taking care of the ball, moving the ball and not dancing with it, understanding the intensity of the fourth quarter,’’ he said.

What he has yet to say (which needs to be said) is the best remedy for the fourth quarter will be Rose, when he is able to return. Last season, Rose was sixth in the league in fourth-quarter scoring, trailing names such as Kobe Bryant, Durant, Kevin Love and LeBron James.

NOTES: Thibodeau likes his players to let their emotions out, especially if it fuels the team, but he also wants to start seeing a better understanding of when to keep the emotions in check.

Joakim Noah no longer doing his ‘‘guns of glory’’ celebration after hitting jump shots is a good start.

‘‘I just want them to concentrate, but I also want them to be who they are,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I don’t want to take that away. It’s an emotional game, but I do want [Noah] to control it.

‘‘Jo has grown a lot, he’s moving in the right direction, and I want him to keep pushing, keep concentrating on improvement. He’s shown he can do a lot of things this year.’’

† Thibodeau has been a huge defender of point guard Kirk Hinrich, despite the fact the veteran has had nine games of seven points or less since Dec. 1, including three games in which he was held scoreless.

‘‘The guy has been playing well all season,’’ Thibodeau said recently. ‘‘He’s got our second-highest plus/minus. You guys keep talking about what he’s not doing. All I see him is playing well.’’



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