DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Despite all the emotional ups and downs of the past few days, the Chicago Bulls continue to say the right things.
Since Derrick Rose tore the ACL in his left knee on Saturday, players and coaches have gone out of their way to stay positive publicly. The reality, of course, is that actions speak louder than words.
The Bulls got smoked in the second half during Tuesday's Game 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers, and the emotion they talked about, which they've played with all year, was gone.
Bulls forward Luol Deng knows that if his team wants to pick up a win in Game 3 on Friday night, it must respond better.
"It's a lot that's been going on. It's been that kind of year," Deng admitted after Thursday's practice. "Rip [Hamilton] missed games. I tore my wrist. We thought it was going to be for the season and then came back, now Derrick. So it's been up and down for the guys, but that's what it is. This is what's going on and we've just got to get on the floor and play."
But after enduring so many setbacks this season, will the Bulls be able to bounce back from the mental loss of losing their MVP and leader? They looked dejected during those final 24 minutes Tuesday night, as if they were coming to the realization that after a year spent waiting for Rose, he really wasn't coming back this time.
Tom Thibodeau saw what the rest of the fans at the United Center saw that night. With that, he's urging his team to take the emotion out of things and concentrate on technique.
"Emotions are not what wins games," Thibodeau said. "Playing well is what wins the game. You can go into a game and because you're home doesn't mean anything. It's being prepared, playing well, executing at both ends, you have to play well. If you're counting on emotion to get you over, that's not going to work."
As much as Thibodeau may want to take the emotion out of his game plan, he would be wise to squeeze some more out of his beleaguered players.
Understandably, they are still dealing with the harsh reality of Rose's injury. They are a group that has overcome challenges all season and it's hard to believe they could roll over in the face of their biggest one to date. That's why it will be up to Deng and Joakim Noah, two of the veteran leaders on the team, to lead the way against the Sixers the rest of the series.
"We’ve been through it before," Deng said, regarding all the emotions.
"We’ve been through tougher things than that. I know how everyone feels; we’re going to come out, we’ve got a lot of guys on the team that are fighters. We’re going to fight our way out of it."
In order to do that, Thibodeau believes his team must do a better job focusing on their principles: Defense and rebounding. The focus the Bulls had in those two areas went down the drain in the second half the other night.
"The first step is the intensity part, then there’s technique," Thibodeau said, "Then there’s tying everyone together, then you have to have the ability to make multiple effort. There’s a lot of things that go into and it starts with the raise of the shot."
Thibodeau has had his team watch tape to correct all the mistakes. They've had two days to collect themselves after a poor performance. Now it's time for them to execute the way they have most of the year.
While many pundits have already counted the Bulls out, Thibodeau and his players expect their team to get back to work on Friday.
"There’s a lot of corrections that we have to make," Thibodeau said. "And I expect us to be ready."