As much as Tom Thibodeau would often try and deflect, there were two storylines that the former Bulls coach couldn’t escape.
It was either the outside overhyped concern of the minutes he handed out or the cold war with the front office.
Now it’s Fred Hoiberg’s turn, as the ever-changing lineup continued to seemingly be a daily discussion for the first-year coach.
“Again, on different nights it’s going to be different lineups out there, and you hope as this thing evolves you find your five guys that you’re most comfortable finishing off games,’’ Hoiberg said.
And hey, if you can continue to win games throughout the experimenting? Even better.
Thanks to 23 points from Derrick Rose, the Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers at the United Center on Monday night, 96-95, to win their third straight, as well as improve to 6-3 on the year.
As far as the starters, that was once again Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, with the only change being Tony Snell in for Doug McDermott.
It was the closing group that continued to draw the most interest, however, as the Bulls watched a 15-point third-quarter lead dwindle to just two with 3:30 left in the game.
That’s when Hoiberg went to the mix-and-match, looking for a unit that would stop the leakage.
With Rose sidelined because of a minor left ankle sprain, Hoiberg had Taj Gibson, Butler, Snell on the floor, and then an offense-for-defense switch between Kirk Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore, as well as Gasol and Joakim Noah.
Not exactly personnel that screams, “Eastern Conference Championship, here we come,’’ but a mix that got it done. Then again, as long as Butler can hit a clutch jumper like he did with 1:24 left in the game to extend the lead back to three, and then defend All-Stars like Paul George from late-game heroics, lineup questions are easier answered.
“I think just with the depth of this team, and just the different personalities, different skill-sets that we have, it’s going to be different guys on different nights,’’ Hoiberg continued insisting. “It’s going to be who has it going. It’s been Taj some games playing with Pau, it’s been Joakim playing with Pau. We’ve gone some offense-defense substitutions late in games and I’m sure you will continue to see that throughout the year.’’
Hoiberg was then asked if he felt he needed to have those five guys that he knows he can close games out with on a nightly basis, and responded, “I don’t think so. As long as we’ve got guys out there that are playing well, that’s the most important thing.’’
“Well’’ seems to be in the eye of the beholder so far this season, with the Bulls again having a big lead over an opposing team only to take the oars out of the water.
“We got stagnant,’’ Hoiberg said. “Those last eight minutes we just shut it down from a pace standpoint.’’
Not that the night was a step back by any means.
Rose’s ankle seems to be very minor, according to the point guard.
“Just a regular ankle sprain,’’ Rose said. “Just throbbing a little bit, nothing out of the norm. Have some ice on it a little bit.’’
And as far as who finishes games, the players don’t seem overly concerned.
“Our team is real unselfish,’’ Gibson said. “We don’t really complain. We just want to see everyone succeed, but we understand that there’s a bigger goal at hand. That’s how I feel. I don’t really worry about all the other antics.’’