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Even Thibs has hard time criticizing Bulls after beating Heat

Taj Gibs(22) Carlos Boozer (5) Joakim Noah had much smile about after beating Heat. | APNoah

Taj Gibson (22), Carlos Boozer (5) and Joakim Noah had much to smile about after beating the Heat. | APNoah

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SATURDAY

PISTONS AT BULLS

The facts: 7 p.m., Ch. 9, 1000-AM.

Updated: January 8, 2014 6:12AM



Finally, a starting point.

A game the Bulls can point to as an example of what they have to do with Derrick Rose sidelined for the season again.

Game film that coach Tom Thibodeau can rewind at almost any point and find something good. No easy task in Thibodeau’s world.

Bulls 107, Heat 87.

So of course there was a new sense of optimism Friday, the day after the game.

Well, almost.

“From start to finish, probably so,’’ Thibodeau said when asked if it was his team’s most complete game of the season. “But there are still a lot of things that we have to do better. [The Heat] missed a lot of shots that they normally make, so for us, we have to continue to build. I thought the first half, offensively, was our best half of basketball. The second half was OK. But we can do better.’’

Asked to go into more detail about what needed to be better, Thibodeau said, “I thought the first half we made quick decisions, the ball moved, and then the second half, we hit a segment in the third quarter where we didn’t. Then we got back to the movement in the fourth quarter, so that part was good.’’

That’s it? A segment in the third quarter when the ball movement was a bit stagnant?

Considering some of the disastrous showings since Rose was lost for the season with a torn right meniscus Nov. 22, the Bulls will sleep well knowing they had a lapse in making sure the ball was hopping for a few minutes in the third.

“Every game is different, but, yeah, I think so,’’ veteran guard Kirk Hinrich said when asked if he believed that was the best effort of the season. “I think it was our most consistent defensive game, our most consistent rebounding game, our most consistent offensive showing, high energy, just moving the ball, making it hop.

“That’s who we are. The last three games we were great offensively, but not so much defensively. We defend, rebound, low turnovers. That’s our M.O.’’

In an Eastern Conference where a .500 record has a team sitting as the No. 3 seed, the 8-9 Bulls know that if they can copy the blueprint from the Heat game, it won’t take very long to climb back to the high ground of the standings.

“The last four or five games, I think we’ve played well. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much to show for it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Now I think we’re moving in the right direction. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the important thing is to come out with the right mind-set [tonight against the Pistons] to know how aggressive we have to be against a team like that with their size and their quickness.

“We’re going to have to be ready for the speed and intensity of the game, and it’s important for us to follow up and have an edge to our game when that ball goes up in the air.’’

The one player who can help bring that edge is Joakim Noah. Another reminder of that was on display against the Heat. Noah finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds, his second consecutive impressive game after a disappointing first month-plus of the season.

“Well, there’s three parts to it,’’ Thibodeau said of Noah. “The most important part is the mental and physical part, along with emotional. So I think you have to get yourself ready to play.

“But I think the big thing with Jo was he missed all of training camp [with a strained groin]. You can’t miss all of training camp and expect to play well in the NBA. So the big part, he’s starting to get his timing back.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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