Chicago Bulls’ Bench Steps Up in Game 5

by May 11, 2011

DRose will nab most of the headlines and praise for Chicago’s tough win against Atlanta last night, but Tom Thibodeau’s bench was just as critical. From “Thibodeau believes in structure, and it’s been a major reason the Bulls have been so successful this season. Players have their roles and their responsibilities, and Thibodeau rarely varies. But this was the moment of the season. Lose this game and it likely was the last in Chicago for the season. Thibodeau went back to Rose, as he did to open the fourth quarter of Game 4, eschewing his normal rest along with Thibodeau’s talisman, Deng. But Thibodeau also opted for defense. Generally, Thibodeau goes for offense in the fourth quarter, using Kyle Korver with Boozer. But this was as radical departure and lineup as Thibodeau has used all season, and it was a magic potion. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer provided the energy and effort that had been evaporating. Go back and watch the beginning of the fourth quarter and you’ll see a virtual clinic on help defense from Asik. Gibson had been probably the most energetic Bull in this series, but underutilized as Thibodeau continued to try to expand Boozer’s presence. Brewer had been in something of a funk since his thumb injury and seemingly down on himself. But this truly was a desperate time. So Thibodeau benched Boozer and Noah for the entire fourth quarter, and that saved the game, if not the season. Gibson had 11 points in the fourth, Brewer had five rebounds and two steals and while Asik had three rebounds and a block, his help was inspirational: Sealing two men to allow a Deng score, cutting off Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford on the same possession to prevent layups, forcing the ball out of Al Horford’s hands into a turnover. ‘Those guys played hard,’ said Hawks coach Larry Drew. ‘They are three blue collar workers. They came out and we felt their presence physically. They worked harder than we did. Give credit where credit is due. Those guys affected the game. They played harder and played more physically and made their presence felt.’ It really was brilliant, if unrecorded in the box score, stuff. It was the so called little things that win big games.”