Not good enough.
The Bulls handed the 76ers their 24th consecutive loss, and their 91-81 victory Saturday left them in a virtual tie with the idle Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the East. But it didn’t matter.
Just not good enough.
Not at this time of year and not in the eyes of coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Bulls (39-31) getting outrebounded for the third time in the last 10 days didn’t go unnoticed by Thibodeau. He was more interested in pointing out what needs to be fixed rather than focusing on the second win over the 76ers in the last three games.
That weakness in his team is a symptom of a bigger problem.
“You’re 70 games into the season and so are all the other teams in the league, so every day of the year, including the offseason, you have to prepare yourself to endure a long season,’’ Thibodeau said. “There’s the mental part; there’s the physical part; there’s the emotional part. So everyone is going through the same thing. If you want to choose to say we’re tired, 90 percent of the rebounding is going to be will and determination. Are we going to go get it? When that ball is in the air, are we going to get it? The great rebounders are the ones that keep going. The more you go, the more you get.
“Right now, we got to hit, hold and go, and if we do that, we’re going to be great. If we take any shortcuts, we’re not. This time of the year, you can’t be taking shortcuts. This is the time of year you get your house in order.’’
So while the house might be getting tidy as the playoffs near, going 7-5 since March 1 is far from orderly for Thibodeau.
He let his players know that at the half — they only led by three, 41-38 — and again after the game. They were outrebounded by the 76ers 48-44.
“He was like, that’s a team that’s really on the edge,’’ Taj Gibson said of Thibodeau’s warning to the players at halftime. “You have guys that are fighting for their lives, guys really fighting for the security of their families, trying to stay on the team next year. That’s the hardest kind of guys to play against. Just get the lead, build from it. Once we got that lead, it was just a real dogfight.’’
Then again, with the 76ers shooting 1-for-20 from three-point range, keeping the lead wasn’t that difficult.
It wasn’t all bad for the 76ers, however, as they continue to chase history — embarrassing history, but history nonetheless. They’re three games shy of surpassing the NBA record for consecutive losses set by the Cavaliers in the 2010-11 season.
“I’m so proud of our guys,’’ 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “You look at the roster we have now, and we’re playing Indiana close twice in the last 10 days, the Bulls and then the Knicks. We’re there. I’m proud of the way we’re playing.’’
As for the Bulls, they can turn their attention back to the Pacers, who wore them down in Indiana on Friday night, beating them 91-79.
“It doesn’t stop this time of year,’’ Gibson said. “And Thibs won’t let it. That’s fine. That’s the way we like it.’’