I cannot lie, I wasn't able to properly watch enough of either road victory this the weekend to glean much from it. And I happen to agree with Stan Van Gundy that a Howard-less Magic is nothing to learn from at all.
I did see the starters (outside of Noah) playing late in Cleveland when they had a fairly insurmountable lead, and Derrick Rose taking a lot of hits in Orlando. And though it was certainly a more meaningful game, the victory over Boston also included a lot of the Bulls most important players being in when the game was already decided.
With the top seed in the East locked up, it's now to that time-tested (i.e., a bit tired) sports debate of whether to ease up down the stretch when a now-meaningless (yeah, there's catching the Spurs I guess) regular season closes. The answer being: of course you do.
There are challenges in it, most notably those associated with the only player who looks to be clearly hurt (though he says otherwise), Joakim Noah. It's a bad break for the Bulls that the player who could most use the rest is also the one who could use this time to get back to playing his best (both singularly and alongside Boozer).
And it's clearly against Thibs's nature to hold back on anything. But I wouldn't dare suggest that he doesn't still coach the players on the floor to win, or approach practices, shootarounds, or single possessions differently. But the minutes should be cut. For Noah, Boozer, Deng and Rose especially. Limit the time on their usual stints, and especially if games are in control late (and perhaps even if not), don't play them at all. I won't say they need to sit entire games, but wouldn't be against that either. Maybe some benefit can be derived from an unexpected bench contributor that can 'carry over' (as flimsy as that premise is) to the post season, and Thibs can still work everyone as hard as he wants when they're playing. The key is making that choice simply not to play everyone, all out, all the time.
The usually mentioned downside to such an idea is that the team would 'lose their edge' before when they most need it. But that idea, especially with this team (and its leader) just doesn't seem like an actual possibility. Heck, even if something is lost, the first round is there to get it back. By the time the Bulls face the top contenders in the conference, it'll be a long way from this week, and if they do lose then it won't be because of a mentality now. But the downside of the other option, the simple calculation of more minutes meaning more risk for injury: it may be slight, but it's real.