Chicago Bulls begin playoff prep
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn't want to talk about the Indiana Pacers before the regular season ended, but that didn't mean he wasn't preparing for the first-round playoff opponent.
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The No. 1 seed Bulls play host to No. 8 seed Indiana at noon at the United Center.
"If y'all could see the playbook we had at the beginning of the year, it's the same thickness," Ronnie Brewer said. "And this is just for one team."
Would Brewer need a suitcase to lug it home?
"It's like college, all-your-classes thick," Brewer said. "It's pretty funny when I saw it, because if you know Thibs, he's really down to detail and really focuses in. I guess we're going to be hitting our books tonight."
Except, perhaps, for Derrick Rose, who didn't meet with the media, as he prepared to meet President Obama at Navy Pier for a re-election fundraiser that was slated to start at 7 p.m.
The team's light practice, which consisted mostly of watching tape, started around 4 p.m, and lasted less than an hour.
Thibodeau's preparedness has reached legendary status among his players. The team's NBA-best 62-20 record attests to how the Bulls have taken to their coach, and the playoffs mean he and his staff have more time to focus on one opponent.
"That made me excited," Brewer said of the scouting encyclopedia. "The preparation that he had, that pretty much speaks of how we're going to approach it. We're going to take it one game at a time and focus on every single person and how we're going to slow them down, shut them down. We gotta know our opponents better than they know us and that's what we intend to do."
Indiana was the only Central Division foe to beat the Bulls this season, with a 115-108 overtime win on March 18. In its three wins over the Pacers this season, Chicago outscored them by an average of 100.3 to 82.7.
The Bulls went 13-1 after that loss and have won nine in a row. No team in NBA history has gone undefeated in their division since the league expanded to a four-division format in the 1970-71 season.
"We talked about it," Brewer said. "We're trying to make history and going undefeated in our division would've been huge for us. But you have games like that, where things don't go our way. I think we showed a lot of character by fighting and getting it to overtime; we just came a little short. We still remember that game. We hold a chip on our shoulder and we look forward to playing Game 1."
Thibodeau resisted the idea that the Bulls should shut down guys after they clinched the No. 1 seed, though he did limit some minutes in the regular-season finale. The San Antonio Spurs (61-21) fell to the Phoenix Suns after the Bulls beat New Jersey on Wednesday night, giving Chicago home-court advantage over every team in the playoffs.
"It doesn't guarantee you anything," Thibodeau said. "You try to win as many games as you can, to try and put as many things in your favor as possible. It doesn't really do anything for the Indiana series and that's what's in front of us right now. That's the only thing we're thinking about."
Thibodeau praised the play of Indiana forward Danny Granger, who received attention for saying he'd rather play the Bulls than the Celtics, who have more championship-style experience. But the coach added he wasn't concerned with his opinions.
"I don't concern myself with what Danny Granger is saying," he said. "That was his opinion so that's fine. We're just getting ready for the Pacers."
Brewer said the team doesn't post up "bulletin board" material.
"If you need stuff like that to get motivated," Thibodeau said, "there's something wrong with you. This is the playoffs. You should be able to get ready."
Brewer missed the last game after spraining a ligament in his left thumb Tuesday night in New York. He received treatment Thursday and did some light shooting while wearing a brace.
"I came in early and got some shots up, handled the ball a little bit," Brewer said. "It's a little sore, but you got to play through pain and that's what I intend to do."
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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