CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau's team has lived by a simple credo for the past three years.
"Know your job and do your job."
The veteran coach spits it out to his players and to the media constantly. It's more than a cliche for the Chicago Bulls' veteran coach, it's a state of mind. He believes that his team always has a chance to win because his players are always prepared. He embraces the notion that no matter who is in or out of the lineup, the Bulls can always find a way to win because they are more prepared than anyone else. Derrick Rose, Rip Hamilton and Joakim Noah all out because of injuries? No problem. Thibodeau always believes his team will find a way ... and that's exactly what they did Saturday night in an 87-84 triumph over the Indiana Pacers.
The Bulls grinded out a game that few believed they could win. That line has been written and said so many different times in the Thibodeau era that it shouldn't come as a surprise anymore when the Bulls do pull off that kind of victory. As beat up as this team is, they still find a way to win games when fans least expect it. That's a credit to Thibodeau and the types of players he has playing for him.
"It took heart," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "Guys were doing what they do best. Guys were putting forth effort on defense, we were getting stops, we got a lot of big minutes out of Daequan [Cook] and Nazr Mohammed. Guys just filling the role. Nobody complained. We just kept running the right plays. Guys were just playing basketball, but we kept running the right plays with the right people, at the right time, and it worked."
Gibson continues to play well on a gimpy left knee, but he mentioned the two players who exemplified Thibodeau's credo perfectly on this night. Cook and Mohammed, two guys who have rarely played all season, came in and gave the Bulls a huge lift. They played with energy and made plays when their team needed them. Without Noah in the lineup, and without Nate Robinson down the stretch after he was ejected in the third quarter for a flagrant-two foul, Mohammed and Cook did what they had to do. They combined for 20 points and 12 rebounds ... to everyone's surprise but Thibodeau's.
"This is the way we have to play," Thibodeau said. "We have to do it collectively. A lot of guys stepped up. I thought Luol was terrific, he set the tone. Carlos [Boozer] got going and then got in foul trouble. He played tough. Nazr Mohammed gave us a lift. Taj played great. We needed everybody."
Thibodeau is right about that. If the Bulls are going to continue to rack up wins without Noah and Rose, they have to do it as a group. They have to play with the type of edge that has been missing from their collective game for the past few weeks. They have to block out all the other injuries and distractions and continue to focus on doing the best job they can. After spending most of the season glued to the bench, Mohammed admitted that isn't always the easiest thing to do.
"It's difficult," Mohammed said of his sporadic role. "But we get paid the big bucks, nobody cares if it's difficult. People at home, they could care less that it's difficult to know you're not going to play but be prepared to play, but that's in the job description. So we got to try to do it to the best of your ability and some nights it's going to be good, some nights it's not."
Luckily for the Bulls, Saturday was one of the good nights. After losing six of their past eight games and playing without their emotional leader, they needed a win in the worst way. Only time will tell if this type of win can propel them for a while, but in a season full of ups and downs, Thibodeau's team found a way to stand tall when they needed to most. Just when you're about to count this team out, they bounce off the ground and surprise you.