Oklahoma City also is relying on others to take on larger roles, something the Bulls were forced to do all season. Thibodeau called that beneficial.
“Obviously we didn't want Derrick to be out,” he said. “But I think one of the byproducts was Jimmy (Butler) playing a lot more. We ran a lot more offense through (Joakim) Noah. (Carlos) Boozer was terrific. Luol (Deng) you cant say enough about.”
Bulls forward Taj Gibson emerged as a breakout performer without Rose and remembered the benefits of being able to expand his game.
“It helped a lot,” Gibson said. “Guys had a chance to play without him and work on their games. And now that he's here everybody can to elevate their game to a new level.”
Chicago's playing style, Gibson said, had to change.
“With him we kind of used his quickness and ability on fast breaks,” Gibson said of Rose. “It was kind of hard to adjust at first. We really had to lock in and put more emphasis on how we were going to get points. We went to Booz a lot. Everybody was just trying to figure out some things because when he was on the court he kind of takes on about two or three and always gets open looks for a lot of different guys. So we just had to try a bunch of different stuff.”
And when something worked, the Bulls stuck to it.
That's what Gibson said the Thunder will need to do without Westbrook.
“They just have to figure out their sweet spots, try to get easy buckets,” he said. “Go to whoever is hot. We always went with whoever was hot. Whatever play worked we ran it probably five times or more than that. We just tried to get buckets, rebound the ball and play strong defense. That was one of the main things that held us down all year.”
Of course, the biggest difference between last year's Bulls and this year's Thunder is Kevin Durant. Chicago, despite Deng and Noah being named All-Stars, didn't have nearly a talent as dominant as Durant.
“We just got to play,” Durant said. “Of course we're not going to have (Westbrook) there, but we got to rely on each other, we got to rely on our system and we just got to play. Ain't nobody going to make no excuses for us. We can't hang our heads because we don't have him. We just really got play. That's all it comes down to.”