Bulls vs. Grizzlies: Thibodeau's explanation for 4th quarter lineup falls flat

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau stuck with a struggling Kirk Hinrich far too long against the Grizzlies.

Last night's 80-71 Bulls loss to the Grizzlies was, simply put, an abomination. The Bulls and Grizzlies are both excellent defensive teams, but both teams also committed a ton of unforced errors while botching plenty of opportunities (how many fast breaks did the Bulls screw up?). And both teams shot under 38 percent. Yuck.

It's hard to get too upset about a loss on the road against the Grizzlies, because they are a very good team. But considering just how poorly Memphis played (and Neil Funk was sure to tell us that over and over), it was sort of disappointing that the Bulls couldn't capitalize.

There's plenty of blame to go around, as Luol Deng was terrible (his shooting has been bad the past few weeks) and Marco Belinelli came off his cloud for a night by shooting 4-of-12. But much of the blame has fallen at the feet of Kirk Hinrich for his awfulness, and then also Tom Thibodeau for sticking with Hinrich despite his awfulness.

Hinrich was pitiful from the get-go, tossing up bricks, turning the ball over and getting beat consistently by Mike Conley. And with Nate Robinson not getting it done, getting victimized multiple times during the Grizzlies' second quarter run, it seemed like a perfect time to get Marquis Teague some tick. As Matt said last night in his recap, there's no guarantee Teague does any better against a stout Grizzlies defense, but it would have been worth a shot to get the rookie out there.

Instead, we saw Hinrich return late in the second quarter, and it was just more of the same. Hinrich fired up a goose egg in the first half to go along with a couple of fouls and turnovers. The poor play spilled over into the second half, and when Nate failed to provide any sort of spark, Thibs had yet another chance in the fourth quarter to insert Teague into the game to possibly make something happen. Of course, that didn't happen, and here's Thibs' explanation for why it didn't (via CSN Chicago):

"You have to read how the group is going. The group that got us back in the game in the fourth quarter was when we had Kirk, Jimmy, Lu, Taj and Jo in there," he explained. "When the group is on the floor, they've got to play well. It's not any one individual player. It's a team game, so it's how the team is performing. So, that's how you make your decisions."

Thibs has a propensity to ride hot lineups, which I usually have no problems with. He did it the last couple of games with Teague at point guard, and things worked out well. The problem last night is that this lineup was not actually getting it done, although apparently Thibs was watching a different game than I was.

The Bulls trailed 67-59 with 7:56 left in the game when Hinrich re-entered. The Bulls then proceeded to score four points over the next five-and-a-half minutes. They did play solid defense and did trim the deficit to five at one point, but they were so miserable offensively that they couldn't take advantage of numerous opportunities to get closer (obviously not all Kirk's fault, but he was a big part of it). Somehow, all that counts to Thibs as "getting them back in the game."

After seeing Thibs' comments from earlier yesterday, I pretty much expected Teague to get a DNP. But I also didn't think Hinrich and Robinson would be quite as awful as they were. I understand not playing Teague when those guys are going good, but there's really no excuse to not giving him a chance when things aren't going well. The rookie has earned that opportunity, and Thibs needs to show a little flexibility in making that happen.

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