OAKLAND, Calif. -- After watching his team get destroyed by 42 points Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings, coach Tom Thibodeau had a simple message for the Chicago Bulls as they got set to face the Golden State Warriors Friday night.
"Try," Thibodeau said.
The message -- which was undoubtedly filled with more than a few four letter words -- got through loud and clear. After being embarrassed in Sacramento, the Bulls delivered the type of performance that Thibodeau and his team have become defined by during his three seasons as head coach. They crushed the Warriors 113-95, dominating the game in almost every area. As usual, just when you think it's time to count out the Bulls, they come back and surprise everybody.
"The thing is, this team has a lot of pride," Thibodeau said. "So we knew we stunk. Everybody. Players, coaches, we stunk. So we had to correct it. The big thing is putting the work in. The magic is in the work. You put the work in, usually the results are going to be good."
The work in this case came in the form of an unusual off-day practice on the road and a team meeting where Thibodeau and his team tried to get back on the same page. Still, it's hard to believe this Bulls team was the same one that got demolished by a terrible Kings squad. With all the injuries and offensive problems, few people expected the Bulls to win in a place where they've long struggled. Luckily for Thibodeau, his players didn't pay any attention to all the doubts surrounding them -- exactly the way their demanding coach wanted it.
"I think we played with the right mindset today," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Losing to Sacramento the way we lost to Sacramento the other day was very humbling and it's a reality check. If you don't come ready to play we can get our (butts) kicked so I think we got to build from this. We've been going through a lot of adversity; it was a big win for us tonight and we just got to keep fighting."
Fight is what left the Bulls in Sacramento. Their will was broken and Thibodeau knew it. That's why he challenged them to do better on Thursday and that's why he wore a look of relief late Friday night. With the season spinning out of control, the Bulls played with the type of edge they had been missing. They controlled the pace, moved the ball from side to side and imposed their will on the Warriors defensively. They played with their backs against the wall and fought. They played the way they had been coached to play. They played tougher than they had in weeks.
"That's the one thing coach said he should never have to coach is effort,” Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. “And we didn't give a good effort the last game we played, and tonight we decided as a team to play as hard as we can. (Carlos Boozer) had one of the best hustle plays all season today and it got everybody hyped and we just took that positive energy and ran with it."
Can they keep it up?
Nobody in the Bulls locker room knows. They hope they can, but for the time being they are taking this game and savoring it. They salvaged a brutal road string with their best win in weeks -- one of which they could all be proud.
"Win or lose," Noah said. "That was the best we've played in a long time."