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Bulls lose to short-staffed Spurs at United Center 103-89

Bulls center Joakim Noah is fouled by Spurs center DeJuan Blair (45) as he hauls down rebound first half NBA

Bulls center Joakim Noah is fouled by Spurs center DeJuan Blair (45) as he hauls down a rebound in the first half of the NBA game pitting the Chicago Bulls against the San Antonio Spurs Monday February 11, 2013 at the United Center. Also defending is Spurs forward Matt Bonner. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 12, 2013 12:34PM



The voice was calm but hoarse, the effects of 48 minutes of yelling and disappointment.

Welcome to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s latest therapy session.

And in the wake of the Bulls’ 103-89 loss to a San Antonio Spurs team that played without stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker because of injuries, Thibodeau made sure his players knew exactly what he was thinking.

‘‘We have to get our intensity back; we have to get our discipline back,’’ Thibodeau said, turning a simple question into an opportunity to vent his frustration. ‘‘Right now, people are looking for bailouts. You can’t have that. We’re taking some shortcuts, and we’re paying for it, both offensively and defensively. We’re having a lot of random possessions where guys don’t know what the other guys are doing, so it’s leading to people being stuck with the ball, going one-on-one, and that leads to turnovers.

‘‘Defensively, there are always two things you ask yourself: One, are we doing it hard enough? And two, are we executing the scheme correctly? The bailout is when someone scores: ‘Oh, we’ve got to change.’ No, you have to ask yourself if you are doing it hard enough, then if you are executing it correctly.’’

No names were needed, either, because Thibodeau called out the entire team. Then again, that was easy for him to do after he watched the Spurs turn 19 Bulls turnovers into 29 points.

‘‘That was probably the difference in the game,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Nineteen turnovers, 29 points — you’re not going to be successful, especially against a team like that.’’

Even with all the gifts they handed to the Spurs, the Bulls seemed to grab the momentum on a dunk by Taj Gibson that pulled them to 76-75 with 9:51 left. The Spurs then missed three consecutive shots, opening the window for the Bulls to crawl through and take control. But it never happened because their
offense went cold.

The Spurs responded with an 11-3 run and outscored the Bulls
27-18 in the fourth quarter, improving to 12-1 in their last 13 games and to a league-best 41-12 overall.

‘‘We didn’t play smart, turned the ball over way too much,’’ center
Joakim Noah said. ‘‘Disappointing loss. You have to give credit where credit is due: They played really well, but we’re not playing good basketball right now. We’re on top of each other offensively, and we’re not trusting each other defensively.’’

An even bigger concern for Noah seems to be the plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He was limited in practice the last few days but played 38 minutes against the Spurs, finishing with seven points on just 3-for-5 shooting and 15 rebounds.

‘‘I’ve got to figure out something that works ’cause I’ve got to practice still,’’ Noah said, sounding
concerned about where the injury was going.

Asked whether the media was making too much of the foot problem, he responded: ‘‘No, I just don’t have a good answer to give you guys. There’s no right or wrong. I’m just trying to find something that works.’’

Thibodeau had a much differ-
ent answer when asked about
Noah’s foot.

‘‘I don’t know if you guys realize this, but I do have a trainer,’’ Thibodeau said with more than a hint of sarcasm. ‘‘And we have medical people, too.’’



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