DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Tom Thibodeau loved what Omer Asik and his defensive destroyers (Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Derrick Rose) gave the Bulls during the fourth quarter in Game 5 on Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, but that doesn't mean he's about to change his rotations anytime soon. The more Thibodeau spoke during his media availability on Wednesday afternoon, the more he gave the sense that leaving that lineup together in the future will be more the exception and not the rule.
"We'll go back to what we always have done," Thibodeau said, regarding his rotations. "We've basically done that all year so when one group gets going we'll ride them a little bit longer, it just happened to be at the end of the game. But we've relied on everybody and we need everybody."
That means that Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, all of whom sat firmly on the bench in crunch time Tuesday night, should be expected to return to the floor late in Game 6, despite the glowing success Gibson, Asik and Brewer had with Deng and Rose, holding the Hawks just 15 points in the fourth quarter.
"We're going to go right back to what we've done all year," Thibodeau said. "We're not going to change what we've done. As the game unfolds, if there's foul trouble, an injury, something's working well, we'll tend to ride that a little bit longer, but we're not going to change."
Korver and Noah must step up: So if Thibodeau isn't going to change his rotations, what can he do to get Korver going again? After a solid series against the Indiana Pacers in Round 1, Korver is just 6-for-23 over his last four games against the Hawks.
"Kyle just has to do what he's done all year," Thibodeau said. "He'll be fine. Kyle on the floor creates space. Nobody leaves him. He's had some good wide open looks and we're extremely confident [in him]. This guy has proven what he can do. He's been a clutch fourth quarter player for us all year long. We don't want him to change anything. He brings a lot to our team and because of the way he complements both Carlos and Derrick, it's important to have him out there."
"I thought early in the series, his activity's been great. He's everywhere, his energy ... I think a big part of the first quarter [success] was the way he was running the floor. It allowed us to play with pace. Some nights he'll score a little bit more. But his activity, his rebounding, his shot blocking, that's what we need. We need him to get the ball out quickly so we can run and get Derrick into the open floor to create easy scoring opportunities for everybody."
Asik finds groove: On a brighter note for the Bulls, Omer Asik played very well in the second half of Game 5 and continues to morph into one of the best backup big men in the game. His progression may surprise some around the league, but not Thibodeau. The veteran coach raves about his young center's defense and his ability to set a solid screen.
"I never looked at him as a traditional rookie," Thibodeau said. "Just because of his international experience, and the fact that he had played in so many big games over there. Once you see his makeup, and how he works, he's very smart. The second time around you could see he's a lot better than the first time around. As he continues to play against these guys and these teams, he understands better what they can do. He has great instincts. He can make two or three efforts on the same play. And I think he'll get better and better offensively because of the time he's putting in."
Closing time?: What will it take for the Bulls to wrap up this series on Thursday night? Thibodeau knows it will take a consistent level on energy and he intends to rely on his experiences from the past.
"Each game is going to be tough," he said. "And there's different parts of the game where you don't know whether the tough part will be at the start, the middle, the end. But you're going to hit a point when it's tough. And you got to just got to be ready to go step by step, and when it gets tough, stay together and do your job. Everyone has to do their job.
"Once you start trying to get outside of that and do other things, and thinking that there's more significance to the game than actually just doing the right things, that's when you make your mistakes. I just want us to play. We've built the right habits all season long. We just got to be ready for the start of the game."
There's no question that Thibodeau and his team have developed a lot of respect for the Hawks over the past week.
"They're a talented team, and I know that from prior experience," he said. "In '08, with the Celtics when we won the championship, we played them in the first round and it was a very tough series for us. And now they've got more experience from all that. They're tough. They're well-coached, they're hard playing, and they're tough to guard."
The last word: "This is great. This is playoff basketball. This is what you work for. To me, it's the best time of the year." Thibodeau, on his mindset right now.