The questions about how hard Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau rides his starters have been asked countless times, and the answers are always the same: That’s how he chooses to do it, the players can handle it, and the results have been mostly successful.
That doesn’t mean that they’re going to stop, especially when the guys normally logging the heaviest of minutes end up doing so even when the game has seemingly already been decided, as was the case in an easy 96-85 win over the Nets on Saturday.
Chicago led by 18 points after three, yet Luol Deng played the entire fourth quarter giving him 44 minutes on the night, and Joakim Noah was subbed back in with just over six and a half minutes to play and the Bulls leading by 20.
It seemed excessive, more so than usual. And Noah had an opinion about it afterward.
From Sam Smith of Bulls.com:
“I saw the way the game was going,” said Thibodeau. “You’re jogging back. They’ve got a lot of three point shooting on the floor. A 10-point lead can dissipate in a minute. You knock down three threes, you get a foul, boom. And then we were in the penalty; we’re recklessly fouling. We’ve got to do better.”
“What do you want me to say? Yeah, I’m tired, pretty tired,” Noah offered with a shrug. “Working on (his plantar fasciitis) every day, massages, lots of treatments, doing everything possible to keep it under control. It’s not really right after the game (you feel tired). It’s the next morning that’s the roughest.
“We’ve got a great coach,” Noah said as he began to smile and let out a laugh and you know one of those subtle, understated zingers was coming. “But he doesn’t understand the whole rest thing yet I don’t think. But it’s all good. We all want to win. It’s good.”
The thing about the Bulls is that while most teams are able to turn it up a notch once the postseason begins, Chicago is already playing at maximum effort, and playing its players maximum minutes — even in a situation like this where it would seem to be a good time for Thibodeau to get his guys some rest.
Thibodeau isn’t going to change his style, though, and the way he obsesses about the little things, even when up 20 with only six minutes remaining, is what has made him a successful head coach.
Having his two All-Stars log 40-plus minutes in a game that has already been decided, however, is eventually going to take its toll — perhaps as soon as Sunday night, when the Bulls head to Indiana to take on the Pacers.