DEERFIELD, Ill. — Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who was instrumental in developing the Celtics defense that is considered one of the best of the decade, now has the assignment of exploiting that defense Thursday as the Bulls attempt to edge the Celtics for the No. 1 seed.
Much has been written about the Celtics’ controversial trade of Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder and how it changed the complexion and perception of Boston’s defense. Thibodeau, after the team’s 90-minute practice Wednesday, spoke about the Celtics after the Perkins trade.
“They’re different in some ways but in many ways they’re the same,” he said. “If you look at the core of their team, it’s basically the same core, (Rajon) Rondo, Ray Allen, (Paul) Pierce, and (Kevin) Garnett, that’s the core of the team and they’ve been together a long time. You can’t overlook that and they’ve been very successful together.
“And now they’ve added some pieces, Glen Davis has been part of that team going on year No. 4. That core, they understand what has to be done. They know how to execute. They are an unselfish team. They are a great defensive team and the new guys will get up to speed quickly, they’ve got great veteran leadership.”
Thibodeau made sure not to overemphasize tomorrow’s matchup, only referring to it as the “next game.” But he understands the Celtics are coming to Chicago trying to ratchet up for the playoffs, evidenced by Tuesday’s impressive 99-82 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“The thing to me is we’ve got to be ready to play,” the Bulls coach said. “They’re a talented team; they’re well coached. There’s not anything we’re doing that they don’t know. There’s not anything that they’re doing that we don’t know. So it will come down to how well we can execute and how well they can execute. They’re the defending Eastern Conference champ and until somebody knocks them off, you gotta be ready to compete with them.”
And there’s no question that earning the top seed in the East is significant to Chicago, which is still trying to move forward from the ghosts of the Michael Jordan era.
“You want to put as many things in your favor as possible,” Thibodeau said. “And being the highest seed possible is important. I’m not going to say that it’s not.”