By Dan Bernstein–

CHICAGO (WSCR) One has been an extension of the other all season, as they have worked and spoken in lock-step synchronization to lead the Bulls to the NBA’s best record and the second round of the playoffs.

They will be able to compare their respective trophies today, after Derrick Rose receives his NBA MVP award. Tom Thibodeau got his well-earned Coach of the Year honor Sunday.

After every game this season, and specifically the uncommon losses, you could always count on the two to say essentially the same things, publicly. Rose would often be pulled aside by the TV sideline reporter for two or three quick answers, which would then be repeated by Thibodeau when he met reporters moments later. Right after that, more of the same, with identical descriptive phrases bouncing around the locker-room echo chamber.

That’s why I raised an eyebrow at the divergent comments from Rose and his coach after last night’s series-opening loss at home to Atlanta. Sounds like they saw different games, and we’re not used to that.

“There wasn’t one aspect of the defense that was good,” Thibodeau said of the Hawks’ .513 field goal percentage and .538 clip from three-point range. “We weren’t challenging shots, we weren’t keeping them in front of us, and we played a low-energy offense. The intensity wasn’t right.”

About that “challenging shots” thing, Rose disagreed, in a way that I cannot remember him doing before.

“They were hitting tough shots, guys on them,” he said. “They’re just good basketball players. Contested twos, contested threes, fadeaways.”

Hmm, ok.

How about the star turn by Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who scored a game-high 34 points on 12-18 shooting, including all five of his threes?

Thibodeau: “Joe Johnson basically got where he wanted to go.”

Rose: “Joe was hitting tough shots, hard shots. We contested his shots well. He was in a groove, and that’s why he’s an all-star.”

I’m more inclined to look at the game as Rose seems to. Save for the flaccid first six minutes and some typically-lackluster hustle from Carlos Boozer (has there ever been a player with a higher differential between his level of histrionic expression and his actual production?), this looked more like a They-Made-Some-Crazy-Shots game than a total breakdown of defensive principle or execution.

A perfectionist like Thibodeau, though, just sees the 103 points, the high percentages and the losing result. Even if he dropped a game to a team that did nothing but drain desperation-heaves from midcourt at the end of every possession, he’d still blame his defense. He lives in a world where the opponent should never score at all, if his players are doing things right.

Rose is just being realistic, largely because he’s confident that percentages even out when enough tough shots are taken. He’s already grown up enough to tell the truth, and that’s all he did. If he thought the defense was terrible against Johnson and Jamal Crawford (who had some “wow” buckets of his own), he’d say so.

These men are the two biggest reasons why the Bulls are so good.

It’s worth noting that, for a night, they just had a rare difference of opinion on why they weren’t good enough.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Rose, Thibs Off Message

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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