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SportsMonday: Thibodeau Has Been Terrible

Hooray for the Hawks and all, but I'm going to need to spend some time with the Bulls today. For one thing, the local hockey team will still be here next week. I'm thinking the basketball team's chief concern at this point is whether the initial off-season vacation will be sun-and-fun or natural wonders.

What the heck is going on with this group?

Why has this team sucked so much at the start of games during this first-round playoff series? What is your favorite lowlight so far after the Wizards thoroughly dominated the Bulls again (98-89) Sunday afternoon on the way to a 3-1 series lead? And finally, did anyone see this coming? Because anyone who did deserves a spot in the prognosticator Hall of Fame.

There will be plenty of excuses made for these players and coach Tom Thibodeau if the Bulls don't miraculously find a way to win three in a row (and remember that it already took a miracle, i.e. Mike Dunleavy going 8-for-10 from three-point range, for the Bulls to even eke out their one victory in Game 3).

And some of those excuses will be legit. The Bulls really miss Luol Deng right about now. He was traded to give the team financial flexibility going forward but the price was their inability to at least be a bit more competitive in this series. This team had to fight all season to finish fourth in the conference and it is clearly fatigued. And of course there's that other guy who is out of the lineup with injury. What's his name again?

But there will also have to be a reckoning that the super-coach has struggled mightily in this series and the players have followed his lead.

Hopefully this will result in a little humility. Thibodeau's gruff demeanor can be endearing at times but it can also convey the idea that he barely has patience for questioners because, heck, he obviously knows so much more about basketball than they do. Maybe he could ease up off of that crap in the future at least a little bit.

Thibodeau doesn't deserve anything close to all the blame but at the very least, the man has to be more mentally nimble, a little quicker in his coaching moves.

Time and again during the first four games of this series we have seen games slipping away and the stubborn one absolutely refusing to change his rotation. Those tuning into the hometown call during Game 3 had the chance to listen to Stacey King lobbying for an obvious lineup change with almost six minutes remaining in the game, one that would have put Carlos Boozer, who had had a decent game up until that point, back on the court. Boozer could have provided the scoring the Bulls desperately needed at this point and he wouldn't have hurt the team as much as usual defensively because Nene had been kicked out of the game and he would have been guarding over-the-hill Drew Gooden.

Boozer never came in, and if not for an almost miraculous three-pointer from Jimmy Butler in the final 30 seconds, the Bulls probably would have lost that one too.

Thibodeau also has to take a very, very close look at how he distributes minutes. You can't have Jimmy Butler play 53 minutes in a game and score six points. It cannot happen. That, by the way is one of my top three lowlights.

And you can't give guys more minutes than they've had all season (like D.J. Augustin's 40-plus in Game 2) and then be surprised when they are fatigued at the end of the game and miss a bunch of shots.

I doubt true Bulls fans have enjoyed even one minute of this series. My son and I certainly didn't as we watched Game 2. We were at the United Center early (it was hard not to be with a starting time of 8:30 p.m.) but it still felt like the Wizards led 7-0 before we even settled into our seats. The next thing we knew, the Bulls were down 29-12 and we should have been making plans to track down a fancy dessert.

Instead we hung in there, watched the Bulls come all the way back . . . and then choke down the stretch. Leading the gag brigade was Kirk Hinrich in a stretch of basketball that will not appear on the resume of either player or coach. The Wizards clearly wanted the veteran guard, who has rarely shot well in the clutch during his entire pro career, to shoot. And Hinrich was only too happy to oblige.

And Thibodeau was too slow to either call plays in which his lead guard wouldn't end up shooting, or to just take him out of the game for God's sake before he was allowed to miss shot after shot after shot.

Finally Hinrich mustered a decent drive in the final seconds and earned a foul call. He went to the line with chance to tie it and send it into a second overtime . . . and of course he missed the first free throw. Badly. Just like the Bulls have missed everything badly in this series.

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Listen to Jim "Coach" Coffman on The Beachwood Radio Hour every Saturday.

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Comments welcome.

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