Bulls

Bulls: Tom Thibodeau defends Joakim Noah going into Game 2

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Bulls: Tom Thibodeau defends Joakim Noah going into Game 2

CLEVELAND—

Considering the Mike Miller experiment predictably failed miserably in Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going with Tristan Thompson at power forward for Game 2 of their series against the Bulls as they try to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole with two games in Chicago up next.

If Game 1 was a win on the scoreboard for the Bulls, it was also a win for them strategically and possibly psychologically, which is why Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has routinely chided the school of thought that says the Cavaliers are undermanned without Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.

“Any team with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving isn’t shorthanded,” Thibodeau has said numerous times.

Thompson is a menace on the offensive glass, especially when paired with Timofey Mozgov. In Game 1, the Bulls face-guarded him and kept him off away from creating second-chance opportunities, but that test will likely become much harder tonight.

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“Yeah, well you prepare for everybody, all the possibilities,” said Thibodeau when asked if he was surprised about the report stating Thompson would start in the team's morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena.

“He played 37 minutes so we know who he is and how he fits in. He can play at the 5 and at the four and because of all the things LeBron can do, he has flexibility. The biggest concern is the rebounding aggression and we have to be ready for that.”

He only grabbed three offensive rebounds in Game 1, a victory for the Bulls’ game plan, and Joakim Noah was part of the reason why.

Noah’s struggles are certainly in focus, as his offensive confidence has appeared to wane—evidenced by blowing an easy point-blank layup, part of his 0-4 shooting night.

Knowing what Noah’s going through, as far as his surgically repaired left knee that was worked on in the offseason giving him trouble from night to night, Derrick Rose has been appreciative of the effort and not necessarily worried about the stats.

“With Jo, he’s giving us what he’s got. He’s been through a lot,” Rose said. “For a big guy having those injuries, it takes a lot. Just his energy, his presence is a lot. He’s a hell of a character, hell of a teammate and it kinda rubs off on people.”

[MORE BULLS: Bulls should expect a more aggressive LeBron James in Game 2]

But Thibodeau chooses to focus on the nine rebounds and two blocked shots in 29 minutes, and with Thompson’s presence meaning the Cavaliers will play bigger, at least in theory, means Noah will be just as important.

“I don’t want anyone to get lost in his scoring because it’s never been a strong suit,” Thibodeau said. “It’s all the other stuff he brings to the team. It’s not the emotion, it’s the activity. When he does that, he’s very, very effective for us. It’s how the team functions when he’s on the floor. He doesn’t have to shoot well to play well. It’ll come around for him. All players go through it. Don’t let it take away from the things.”

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Hub Arkush (ProFootball Weekly) and Jason Goch (SB Nation) join Kap on the panel.

The guys debate which team will finish with a higher draft pick when the season ends: Bulls or Blackhawks?

Plus, hear their reaction to the MLB’s new pace-of-play rule change.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: