SALT LAKE CITY -- Tom Thibodeau coaches games the way he wants his team to play them.
He paces, he screams, he bellows different calls out. He puts everything he has into the preparation and execution of every game plan. He expects his players to do the same. He rides the emotional roller coaster more than anyone else on the roster. The highs are never high enough, and the lows are never-ending. That's why the veteran coach looked so exhausted after the Bulls grinded out a hard-fought 93-89 win over the Utah Jazz. After watching his team play terribly down the stretch in a Thursday night blowout against the Denver Nuggets, Thibodeau's bunch found a way to score buckets when it appeared they had run out of gas.
"I'm just glad we got the win," a tired-looking Thibodeau said. "That's what we needed. We needed to bounce back. We took a punch [Thursday] night, we got up tonight and we fought and that's what you got to do. You can't look backwards, you can't look ahead, you got to look at exactly what's in front of you."
The Bulls did that nicely late against the Jazz, and they got a big lift from the man that wanted to win this game more than any other person in the visitor's locker room -- Carlos Boozer. The former Utah forward, who was booed almost every time he touched the ball, scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 after a very slow start. Obviously, he took Thibodeau's words to heart and continued to play until the final whistle -- a trait the Bulls have learned well under Thibodeau.
"I got in foul trouble so early in the game," Boozer said. "I'm not used to that, usually I don't. So I was super fresh in the fourth quarter. I walked out there and I'm like, 'I'm not even tired right now, I got energy, my legs feel good,' and just try to give my team some juice."
Boozer did plenty of that -- sparking the Bulls at the end of a disjointed stretch in which they played six consecutive road games. His teammates fed off the offensive play he provided and continued to prove that they can find a way to win when most people count them out.
"We're all good dudes, we all want to win," Boozer said. "We put that above everything else and we're all committed to each other. We play for each other. At the end of the day, we're short-handed every game. With [Derrick Rose], our team goes like this, we're leaps and bounds more talented than most teams, but without him we got to play extra hard to have a chance to win, and we expect that. We play extra hard and we have a chance to win most nights with the exception of [Thursday] night."
Several players used the word "embarrassing" to describe the loss to the Nuggets on Thursday night, so they made it a point to play with the type of fire Thibodeau always preaches about all the way until the end.
"We all play for each other," Bulls guard Nate Robinson said after playing a team-high 46 minutes. "Nobody plays to get the credit. When you got a team full of guys like that, everybody's unselfish, everybody. Guys find guys that are hot. Booz got it going late, him and Marco (Belinelli) in that two-man game couldn't stop it ... everybody does their job. Like Thibs says, 'you know your job and you go out and you do your job' and that's something that Coach harps on and that's something that guys really take to heart, and we really try to do it to the best of our ability and have fun. As long as we have fun out there I think we'll be OK."
That was a sentiment echoed throughout the locker room.
"It just shows that we got a lot of talent," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "Every time somebody steps down there's always somebody ready to step up to the challenge. We got a lot of humble guys, guys that are not all about 'me.' Everybody is all about team and it shows the way we play. And tonight it's just a testament to how we responded after getting blown out [Thursday] night."
That's exactly the type of attitude Thibodeau wants to see and hear. He was proud of the way his players took a punch and got back up -- he just hopes they can maintain that mindset during the second half of the season.
"That comes from commitment," he said. "When you have a team that commits, the more you're invested, the harder it is to give in. That's all part of mental toughness and I think our team is invested, they're committed. We were all disappointed with the way we performed (Thursday) and we wanted to bounce back today."