After absorbing the shock that the Bulls' championship hopes collapsed on the United Center floor with Rose, fans took to Twitter to voice their unhappiness with the way Tom Thibodeau handled Rose's minutes late in the game.
Across the board, fans wondered why Thibodeau could've possibly been playing Rose when the Bulls were up by 12 points with 1:14 left to go in the game.
However, looking back from the time Rose entered with 7:52 left in the 4th quarter until the injury, the Bulls were being outplayed by the 76ers.
Thibodeau said himself in the postgame press conference that the Bulls were losing their lead.
"I don't work backwards like you guys do," Thibodeau said. "The score was going the other way."
After Rose's three-pointer with 6:07 left to go, the Bulls had extended the lead to 20 points. However, three minutes and 24 seconds later, that lead was down to 14.
In that time span, the Bulls only scored four points while the 76ers scored ten. On top of that, the Bulls had committed two turnovers and four fouls.
As all good Bulls fans know, Thibodeau isn't one for resting players. We know that any time the game is under 20 points, he likes to play it safe and keep his starters in.
That strategy has led the Bulls to the best record in the NBA—and most of the time, without Derrick Rose on the floor.
While we don't know if playing the bench during that time would have brought the same results, we do know that Thibs' strategy works.
While some might consider the game over with a 12 point lead in the final minutes, I say—and I'm sure Thibodeau would say as well—that a lead is never safe, especially when you're playing an explosive 76ers team, in the playoffs no less.
No matter how long Rose was in the game, he was playing well, and the rust looked like it was coming off towards the end of the 3rd quarter. Rose sat on the bench for the first six minutes of the 4th quarter to finally be brought in by Thibodeau for the final stretch.
It's something Thibodeau has always done.
The justification for the substitution strategy came in the postgame press conference when Thibodeau stated that Rose needed to work on closing out games as well.
“He’s got to play,’’ Thibodeau said. “He has to work on closing. He has to work on finishing. Our team, we didn’t handle that great.’’
He has always been one to coach for the game, and not for the future. Having the team's leader and leading point scorer in to close out a playoff game that is within 15 points is a no-brainer.
In an unfortunate freak accident, Rose didn't do a great job closing out the game.
But that isn't all Thibodeau's fault, and blaming him is either a knee-jerk reaction, or just incredibly lazy and incompetent to how playoff basketball is played—this isn't February basketball.
There's no doubt that at least 12 out of the 16 coaches that are in the playoffs would have done the same as Thibodeau—which is leave the former MVP and team leader in to finish the game.
So instead of playing the blame game with a coach many of us think should win his second Coach of the Year award, we need to look towards the future and hope the Bulls can bounce back in a playoff run that is just getting started.
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