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updated: 4/21/2014 8:06 PM

Watch for Bulls to rebound

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  • D.J. Augustin shoots against Bradley Beal during the Bulls' Game 1 loss to Washington on Sunday. Augustin was just 3 of 15 from the field.

      D.J. Augustin shoots against Bradley Beal during the Bulls' Game 1 loss to Washington on Sunday. Augustin was just 3 of 15 from the field.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Bulls center Joakim Noah tries to block Washington Wizards forward Nene Hilario from passing in the second half of game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round NBA playoff series on Sunday in Chicago.

       Bulls center Joakim Noah tries to block Washington Wizards forward Nene Hilario from passing in the second half of game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round NBA playoff series on Sunday in Chicago.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

There are endless reasons to feel pessimistic about the Bulls' chances against Washington in this first-round playoff series.

The Bulls can't score in crunchtime, they can't handle the Wizards' twin towers, they face speed and size deficits at the guard spots when D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich play together.

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At the same time, the entire Injured Derrick Rose Era has provided a gloomy outlook on the Bulls' immediate future, whether it's been the regular season or playoffs.

What happens time and again is the Bulls watch film, listen to some sort of lecture from coach Tom Thibodeau, get out on the practice court and somehow tune their game like a guitar string. The defense is tighter, ball movement leads to open shots and you can hardly believe it's the same group of players.

Maybe the Bulls can't match up in this series. Player for player, they probably are less talented than Washington. But the Bulls have a knack for tuning up their game and turning up the intensity whenever they seem overmatched. Maybe not against Miami in the postseason, but this is the first round.

On Monday at the Berto Center, Nazr Mohammed talked about the process of how the Bulls recover from rough outings. They finished the regular season going 17-1 in games following a loss.

"There's no one thing. There's a combination of things," Mohammed said. "It's having guys who care about the game, hate losing, want to perform well. Sometimes it's coaching, letting us know what we did wrong. Sometimes as a player, you think you're doing certain things and then once you watch the film, you realize, 'Dang, I wasn't doing exactly what I thought I'd do.'

"I can't say it's just one thing -- 'If we do this, we know we're back.' If it was that easy, we'd do it before the game. It's going through a process of knowing what went wrong, what went right, paying attention to detail and getting back out there."

Reviewing Game 1, there are plenty of areas where the Bulls could improve. They botched Thibodeau's vaunted pick-and-roll defense plenty of times, failed to convert fast breaks and gave up easy baskets after near steals.

One storyline from the Washington side is how it's such great news the Wizards were able to win when guards John Wall and Bradley Beal were not at their best. That point could be valid, but the guards were quiet because Nene (24 points) was playing so well. The Wizards clearly came into Game 1 hoping to pound it inside and that plan worked like a charm.

"To me, if one guy's not doing his job, it's going to make everyone look bad," Thibodeau said. "We've got to get tied together. We've got to have the proper amount of intensity and concentration. And we need to finish our defense. That's one thing we could do a lot better."

Nene played against the Bulls twice during the regular season. The first time, he scored 19 points. Four days later, he hit 3 of 15 shots.

When it comes to late-game scoring, nothing has really changed from the regular season. If Augustin shoots 3-for-15 from the field, the way he did in Game 1, the Bulls are in trouble. Whenever Augustin starts to resemble a backup journeyman, though, he usually steps up with a strong performance.

"Well, we've got to make shots. That's a big part of the game," Thibodeau said. "We're not going to go away from the guys who have gotten us there. But there are certain things we can do to help each other get open and we've got to do that."

The ball movement wasn't great in Game 1, with the Bulls collecting 13 assists -- 2 off their season low. Then there are the Thibodeau talking points, intensity and effort. When every phase improves, it's often surprising how much better the Bulls can play.

"Your will and determination are important," Thibodeau said. "I felt like they got to the loose balls, the 50-50 balls. How badly do you want it? Are you going to be willing to fight? Are you going to allow yourself to be pushed around? Those things all factor into it."

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