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Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau clearly among the cream — vanilla as he is

The Bulls’ startling success this seasputs coach Tom Thibodeau same sentence with Gregg Popovich Doc Rivers. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Bulls’ startling success this season puts coach Tom Thibodeau in the same sentence with Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 30, 2013 5:27PM



Asked Friday if this was his best coaching season since he took the helm for the Bulls three seasons ago, Tom Thibodeau did what he does best: Refused to take the bait and gave a vanilla answer.

‘‘You don’t change,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘You put everything you have into each and every day. Everything takes care of itself. You’re always faced with different challenges. It’s how you respond to those challenges. If you’re doing everything you can, that’s all you can do.’’

OK, let’s try this a different way. Has this been your most challenging season?

‘‘They’re all the same,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Your challenges may be different, but you look at your circumstances and you have to make the best of those circumstances. The same things go into winning.’’

Spoken like a man who admires bland-speaking New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

So if Tom Thibo-chick won’t address the obvious, I will: The current NBA coaching hierarchy goes San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, Boston’s Doc Rivers and then Thibodeau, with the Denver Nuggets’ George Karl a close fourth.

No Rip Hamilton, no Marco Belinelli, no Joakim Noah and still no Derrick Rose, and still the Bulls beat the Miami Heat on Wednesday to end the Heat’s 27-game winning streak. That’s like the Heat playing without LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Mike Miller and saying, “Go get ’em, boys.’’

That Thibodeau has this team in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race without having Rose all season long is a testament to how elite he really is.

Just don’t ask him about it.

† If the Heat ends up winning the NBA championship for a second straight year, it can thank the Bulls. Ending that streak three weeks before the playoffs means the starters will get some much-needed rest.

† Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu has ‘‘one-year deal for the Bulls’’ written all over him after he’s waived.

† Eastern Conference team to watch next season: the Washington Wizards. Western Conference team to watch next season: the Portland Trail Blazers.

Player of the week

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers guard. Sure, he doesn’t make anyone around him better, but since when has that ever mattered to Bryant? He has, however, done everything possible to keep the sinking Lakers afloat in the West, scoring 36, 31 and 30 in their last three games.

Team of the week

Bulls. Undermanned, they beat the visiting Indiana Pacers, traveled to Minnesota and beat the Timberwolves, then stopped the Heat’s pursuit of history six wins off 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time record for consecutive victories.

Big five

1. Heat. 2. Spurs. 3. Oklahoma City Thunder. 4. Nuggets. 5. Los Angeles Clippers.

Big number

27 The Heat’s win streak end at 27 games on the 27th of March. James averaged 27 points during the streak.

Key games

New York Knicks at Heat, 7 p.m. Tuesday. Now that the streak is over, the Heat turns its attention to the business of defending a championship.

Bulls at Brooklyn Nets, 6 p.m. Thursday. A preview of what could be a first-round meeting.

Spurs at Thunder, 8:30 p.m. Thursday. A preview of what will be the Western Conference finals.



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