It goes without saying that the Bulls would have preferred to win Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
The game presented a number of flaws the Bulls need to correct, though, and new coach Tom Thibodeau seems to thrive when the court becomes a classroom. During a long practice Friday at the Berto Center, the gym often went silent for minutes at a time. Teaching moments, perhaps?
On the eve of Saturday's home opener against Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace and the Detroit Pistons at the United Center, Thibodeau was happy to talk strategy. He suggested a solution for the Bulls' 13-point fourth quarter, which was their undoing in Oklahoma.
"There's a stark difference when the ball hits the paint, versus not hitting the paint," Thibodeau said. "We stood a lot. We held onto the ball. We made quick decisions. We didn't screen well. We didn't cut hard and we took low-percentage shots."
Thibodeau felt the poor shot selection allowed the Thunder to collect a couple of fastbreak baskets on the other end, compounding a 13-4 game-ending run.
"That being said, it was a 2-point game with three minutes to go," Thibodeau added. "We were in position to get a win, but we have to play a lot better in the fourth quarter."
Now, getting the ball into the paint late in close games was the reason the Bulls signed free-agent Carlos Boozer to a $75-million contract. But he's out with a broken right hand, requiring other options.
As Thibodeau describes it, getting touches in the paint doesn't always mean dumping the ball into the post. Back-to-the-basket moves are not a specialty of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, though they can do it. Noah drained a nice hook shot in the third quarter at Oklahoma City.
"The ball definitely has to hit the paint," Noah said Friday. "It makes things a lot easier, even for offensive rebounding when the ball is that close to the rim. Good things happen when the ball hits the paint, even if it's a drive and kick, it's high percentage (shots)."
"We have to be balanced," Thibodeau added. "It can't be all dribble penetration and pick-and-roll. We also have to post up some and get some cuts and things of that nature."
The first-year coach said the decision to play Brian Scalabrine instead of centers Omer Asik or Kurt Thomas in the second half was mostly because of matchups. Detroit will bring another small lineup, with the 6-foot-8 Wallace at center. The Pistons may have started the skinniest set of forwards in NBA history Wednesday by using Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye together.
The Bulls were 2-for-14 from 3-point range against the Thunder. They shot well from long range at home in preseason and Thibodeau talked about making opponents pay for jumping screens set for Kyle Korver by having the screener dive for the basket.