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Don’t talk seeds around Thibs

Bulls center Joakim Noah lays shot while defended by Denver center KostKoufos first quarter Chicago Bulls vs. Denver Nuggets NBA

Bulls center Joakim Noah lays in a shot while defended by Denver center Kosta Koufos in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls vs. Denver Nuggets NBA game Monday March 18, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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With just 16 games left on the schedule, jockeying for playoff position should be atop the discussion list for coach Tom Thibodeau.

Thibodeau obviously didn’t get that memo.

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re not in it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Until we’re in, we’re not in.’’

Nice coachspeak, but not very realistic. The Bulls would need a colossal meltdown not to see the postseason. The question is, where will they see it from? They entered the game against the Nuggets with the sixth seed, matched up against a Knicks team they have handled well this season. But the East is fluid after the Heat, with only seven games separating the No. 2 Pacers and No. 8 Bucks.

“You’re at the point of the season now where you’re heading down the stretch,’’ Thibodeau said. “You want to be playing your best going down the stretch. You want to be building your habits, but we don’t want to change what our objective was right from the beginning, which was to improve each and every day.

“We don’t want to be talking about the playoffs … if you approach it the right way and do the right things, all of that will take care of itself. Don’t look ahead, don’t look behind, just look at what is right in front of us.’’

Shooting it down

Nuggets coach George Karl has heard criticism all season that his team, while deep, doesn’t have that go-to superstar in crunch time, thus making them an easy out in the playoffs.

Karl pulled no punches when asked if his team could make the finals.

“Definitively, yes,’’ he said. “I’m tired of the damn question. First of all, 50 percent of our games our won on the defensive end. I think 70 percent of the games are won with good defense, so the go-to mentality is … Ty [Lawson] has been very good, [Danilo Gallinari] has been very good there.

“Have they gotten into the echelon of Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron [James]? But I remember [the media] saying that LeBron wasn’t a closer three years ago, maybe two years ago. And I’ll tell you what, I’ll take LeBron as my closer. It’s about making basketball plays, it’s not about, ‘I got to make shots.’ It’s about stops, possessions, and then efficiency.’’

Praise for Thibs

Karl also heaped praise on Thibodeau for the way the Bulls have navigated the season with injuries to Derrick Rose and others.

“I think Coach [Thibodeau] has done a great job winning games, and when they get healthy they’re going to be better for the experience,’’ Karl said. “I think they’ve done a hell of a job, and should be complimented on the guys that are getting the wins for them, more than talking about the guys that are injured. That’s my feeling.’’



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