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Updated: February 5, 2014 11:13PM
SAN FRANCISCO — Talk of fourth-quarter playing time and who is or isn’t in the game in the final minutes is dead.
It was read its final rites and put to rest by Tom Thibodeau on Wednesday.
And it had nothing to do with the fact that Carlos Boozer hit a key basket with 1:43 left in the Bulls’ 101-92 victory against the Phoenix Suns 24 hours earlier.
Boozer had made waves about not playing enough late in games, and though he seemed to get his wish, he might not want to get too comfortable with the idea that this will be a trend.
“This is four years now [as Bulls coach], I’m not changing,’’ Thibodeau said after the victory. “I’m going with the guys that I feel give us the best chance to win, and I don’t care who they are. When we hit that six-minute mark, it’s based on what we’re doing and what we need. That’s the way it’s going to be.
“Carlos is a very important part of the team. I need him to play well, I need Taj [Gibson] to play well, I need everyone to play well. For our team to achieve what we ultimately want to achieve, we need to be playing well.
“This isn’t about one person. I’m asking everyone on the team to sacrifice. It’s not just Carlos sacrificing or Taj sacrificing, but I’m asking the entire team to sacrifice for each other, so the team is always going to come first.’’
What also won’t be changing anytime soon is Thibodeau letting his team feel good about itself. It was guilty of that after starting off this six-game trip with a victory in San Antonio, only to stumble badly in New Orleans and Sacramento.
That’s why Thibodeau called a meeting during the shootaround Tuesday.
“Thibs had a great speech before the [victory Tuesday against the Suns],’’ Gibson said. “He kept it simple. He just said go out there and play hard, play for one another. This is what we got, no one is going to help us.’’
The result was a nine-point triumph over the 29-19 Suns, who were 16-8 at home.
Thibodeau said it was about doing all the little things. But now it’s about bottling it and getting back to some sustained winning.
Therein lies the Bulls’ challenge.
“You have the grind of the season, and sometimes you don’t realize you’re doing that,’’ Thibodeau said. “In your quest to get things going, maybe you dance with the ball, try to make something happen. It’s difficult to make something happen individually. You have to make it happen collectively. When you do that, you give your team a good chance to win.
“Like I told these guys [in the meeting], the intentions were good, but we were misguided. We made the necessary corrections, and we’re going to be challenged the same way by Golden State [on Thursday].’’
Good words, but words that some players already knew.
“We knew before Thibs said it,’’ Joakim Noah said. “We knew [after the Kings] game that [against the Suns] we were going to be on some other [expletive].
“We got punched in the mouth in New Orleans, we got punched in the mouth in Sacramento. We just wanted to come out [against the Suns], compete as a team. That was a big one for us. The more the adversity, the more we show that we can take our games to another level.’’