Bulls

Bulls: Tom Thibodeau defends Joakim Noah going into Game 2

Bulls

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.”

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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.”