While Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t agree with the assessment that this year’s offense is better than the team he coached four years ago, he acknowledges he can make modifications to the team’s offensive plan if the Bucks choose to shift their defensive attention.
In 2011, Rose was a threat to score 30 on any given night, while being supported by Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, who each scored 17 per game.
But the Bulls scored just 98.6 points per game that year, good enough for 20th in the league. Of course, the Bulls won 62 games and rolled to the conference finals but were met by a familiar opponent in LeBron James, who shut Rose down in fourth quarters on the way to a 4-1 series win.
“It’s hard to say,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t agree with that assessment. So you’re probably asking the wrong guy.”
In this series the Bucks have zeroed in on Pau Gasol since his 46-point, 18-rebound masterpiece early in the season but after Game 1, it was Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler who torched the Bucks, combining for 48 points and 13 assists in the Bulls’ 103-91 win.
“It can. That’s sort of the nature of the league,” Thibodeau said. “When you have three primary scorers like we do, we can go a different way. All three of those guys have the responsibility of when the second defender comes, hit the open man. Make the right play. Make the winning play. We’re fortunate we have three guys willing to do that.”
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Gasol, of course, is a willing passer and the offense has run smoothly when opposing teams run a second defender to him. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Bucks switch their strategy and force Gasol to be more of a primary scorer—while hoping to shut down the perimeter players who generated the most offense in Rose, Butler and Aaron Brooks.
In the four other meetings including Game 1, Gasol has averaged 15.2 points per game.
“Every game, you’re making sure you’re making winning plays and playing to win and playing together,” Thibodeau said. “You’re trying to play to each other’s strengths. The challenge is not only bringing the best out of yourself but your teammates as well. That’s how you become a great team. It’s not an individual sport. It’s a team sport.”