Determined Bulls head west for road test

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SHARE Determined Bulls head west for road test

Road, sweet road.

Ordinarily, the Bulls’ annual circus trip in November has all the appeal of a scary clown.

But the Bulls confessed to looking forward to this seven-game, two-week opportunity, which begins Monday night against the Clippers.

“This is going to test us,’’ leading scorer Jimmy Butler said, “to see how much we really want to win.’’

A big reason for guarded optimism: The Bulls are 5-0 in hostile arenas and only 2-3 at the United Center.

“It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be fun,’’ forward Taj Gibson said. ‘‘We love playing on the road. I wish we could play like that at home. On the road, all we have is ourselves. I’m looking forward to it. We need this trip to get away and focus on ourselves, focus on our craft. It should be fun.’’

Which raises the question of . . . why are the Bulls defying conventional wisdom by doing their best work away from home?

“Because when you’re at home, you tend to relax,’’ Gibson said. “You get lackadaisical because you feel like the crowd’s going to help you get in the game. It’s not that easy. The crowd needs a reason to cheer. We didn’t give them a reason to cheer [in the 99-90 loss Saturday against the Pacers].’’

Despite that setback, coach Tom Thibodeau said he’s pleased by what the Bulls have done in getting off to their 7-3 start despite injuries, notably to Derrick Rose and Butler. They have missed five and two games, respectively.

“I like where we are,’’ Thibodeau said. “I like going on the road right now. The challenge for us is to just look at the Clippers; don’t get distracted. Sometimes you get concerned when you get ready to go on a trip. The last game of a homestand, the first game when you come back, it’s easy to get distracted. When we’re right, I like us against anybody.’’

Thibodeau declined to speculate on when Rose, who’s day-to-day with an injured left hamstring, might return.

“With Derrick, you just have to go day by day,’’ Thibodeau said. “To try to speculate where he’ll be tomorrow, I don’t know. Injuries are all part of this.’’

All things considered, it’s understandable that Thibodeau, who figures to have a healthy Rose back sooner rather than later, is encouraged by what he’s seeing from his roster.

Key newcomer Pau Gasol and emerging star Butler could give the Bulls a formidable nucleus when Rose and Joakim Noah (knee) are full-go. Gibson and Kirk Hinrich are solid. If the role players can provide offense when needed, the Bulls have a pretty high ceiling.

“There’s been a lot of moving parts,’’ Thibodeau said of the injury situations that have made him tinker, “which in some ways is good because you find out more about your team. We have to be ready when somebody goes out. We have to have that edge to us. You have to put the work into it. The intensity will come if we have great concentration.’’

That’s the message, and the Bulls seem to be getting it as they head west.

“On the road,’’ Gibson said, “you have 20,000 people against you. All you have are your teammates. Everybody on this team plays for each other really hard on the road. It’s fun. That’s why I say I’m not worried about the road.’’

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