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All frets are off for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Here’s what I like about Tom Thibodeau:

After railing all year about little flaws, even when the Bulls were beating people comfortably, they play a subpar first 45 minutes in their playoff opener against the Indiana Pacers and he has his players’ backs.

Fans and media are fretting about tentative offense, balanced offense, Carlos Boozer’s defense, whether Derrick Rose is going to hold up. Meanwhile, the perfectionist coach had a nice playoff game face on after practice Sunday at the Berto Center.

Hey, he knows the Bulls won the series opener 104-99 on Saturday.

Even the way he listed his concerns about ‘‘every aspect’’ of the Bulls’ defense sounded more like a grocery list than a See-Red alert. Eggs, cereal, ball pressure, challenge shots.

‘‘I didn’t think offense was our problem, to be honest,’’ he said. ‘‘You score 104 points, that should be enough to win.’’

And while the 22 points Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough put up is not acceptable, it’s not all about Boozer, Thibodeau said.

‘‘Carlos didn’t guard him [for] the entire game,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘The team didn’t do a good job. It was a result of breakdowns, people not doing their jobs. I’d say it was a compilation of things. We have to do a much better job on him.’’

Boozer will be fine, Thibodeau said.

‘‘I thought he was very aggressive early,’’ he said. ‘‘His foul trouble made him tentative, and he can’t play that way. Even if he gets fouls, he has to stay aggressive. When he’s aggressive, he’s very good.’’

Rose will continue to be aggressive, he added — even if some people wonder whether can keep hurtling himself through traffic to the basket.

‘‘To me, that defines his toughness — the ability to drive the ball hard, get hit, get fouled, make your free throws and do it all over again time after time,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘That speaks volumes about who he is. He’s attacked all year. That’s not going to change.’’

Thibodeau may be a rookie Bull rider, but this ain’t his first rodeo.

By contrast, the Pacers aren’t staying on message as tightly.

While coach Frank Vogel was insisting, ‘‘This will be a good series,’’ center Roy Hibbert said, ‘‘We’re going to shock people. There’s no way they’re going to sweep us.’’

How many wins does it take to make a good series? Will the Pacers be swept? Boozer declined to offer up his view of Hibbert’s guarantee.

‘‘I think talk is cheap, to be quite frank,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘Talk doesn’t do much for me.’’

While Vogel recited the Principle of Verticality while bemoaning Rose’s 21 free throws, Thibodeau referred to a more dog-eared page on Law of Physicality.

‘‘This is the playoffs,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘There are going to be fouls like that. To me, this is ordinary. This isn’t any big deal.

‘‘I guess it’s who’s viewing it. I thought there were more blocks. That’s just the way it goes. This game’s not easy to officiate. I thought they were trying to take fouls, and the refs made the right calls.’’

What Thibodeau didn’t like — surprise, surprise — is what the sellout crowd at the United Center loved: the technical foul Luol Deng received for getting in Hansbrough’s face after Hansbrough’s hard foul on Rose late in the game.

Nor did the nuts-and-bolts coach care for Rose’s jawboning with Jeff Foster earlier.

‘‘To me, you just have to play the game,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘All that stuff is nonsense. Concentrate. Execute. That’s toughness.

‘‘What I don’t want is fourth-quarter technicals. We have to be smart. The teams that are smart ultimately win. That’s what we want to do. We want to be smart.’’

Shaky first win or not, with Thibodeau at the tiller, they’re headed in the right direction.



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