Bulls suffer disappointing letdown in Atlanta

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Bulls suffer disappointing letdown in Atlanta

ATLANTA The no-excuses Bulls had no explanation for their flat play in Saturday nights 92-75 loss to the Hawks at Philips Arena.

After their thrilling, wild victory over the Knicks the previous evening, this outing was the polar opposite strong first quarter in a blowout defeat, as opposed to a poor fourth quarter in New York, where they dominated the first three periods and the one perceived negative, too much emotion Friday, wasnt at all present in Atlanta.

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I thought it was a letdown because we lost. We got our expletive kicked. Tough loss. The highs and lows in this thing are unbelievable, man. One night you feel great because you won a big game and then, the next night, you come out with the wrong mindset and you lose the game. Tough, weve just got to move on and get ready for Christmas, Joakim Noah explained. Our energy was bad. I feel like we settled for too many shots early in the clock. When youre tired, sometimes youve just got to move the ball. We let them play to their strengths, as well.

Cant get too down, you cant get too high. Youve got to stay level-headed. Its not the end of the world. Youve just got to learn from it and move on.

Luol Deng concurred: Were not happy with the way we played, with low energy and a lot of mistakes. Games like this happen, but at the same time, we could have made a lot of smart plays out there. But were not down. Were upset we lost, but weve got to get ready for the next one.

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It wasnt as if one Hawks player in particular completely dominated the affair; rather, the hosts balanced, team-oriented approach was the issue, as the Bulls, who exemplify that ethos on a near-nightly basis, had the tables turned on them. As one can imagine, Tom Thibodeau was displeased afterwards.

The first quarter, were up 21-17, so I thought we did a good job. Theyre shooting 36 percent. Start the second quarter, they got loose. We couldnt stop them after that. The second quarter was 36-16, the Bulls head coach fumed. Guys got going and once they get going, theyre hard to shut off. We didnt execute. We got beat in every facet. Our defense wasnt any good, our rebounding was poor and when youre on the road theyre a good team youve got to play for 48 minutes, so theres a lot of things weve got to do better.

Look at Atlanta. They played, too. Its a will game and its 21-17, youre ready, you have a lead and weve got to do better, he continued. When you allow frustration to set in because of a missed shot and you dont sprint back to protect your basket, you dont stop the ball and find the most dangerous guy, then youre asking for trouble. So, we gave them easy shots, we didnt challenge shots and theyre the type of team, if you give them a good look, theyre going to make. Lou Williams got going in the second quarter. That hurt us.

Fortunately for Thibodeau and his team, games like this are a rare occurrence and with two day offs to bounce back from a game where players admitted privately to being sluggish after such an emotionally-charged win in the Big Apple, the lack of energy they displayed is unlikely to repeat itself in their next contest, a Christmas Day home matchup against Houston at the United Center.

Bulls' Taj Gibson a late scratch with ankle injury vs. Mavericks

Bulls' Taj Gibson a late scratch with ankle injury vs. Mavericks

Just when you think the Bulls are back at full strength for one of the few times this season and able to hit the reset button halfway through the year, someone goes down with an injury.

Taj Gibson will miss Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks with a left ankle injury that he apparently suffered Sunday night in the Bulls’ win against Memphis.

This comes on the day Nikola Mirotic has recovered from his strep throat and apparently the flu bug that made its way through the locker room has finally run its course.

Paul Zipser, the Bulls’ rookie second-round pick, will start in Gibson’s place. Zipser has played in 12 games so far, starting in two of them.

"It's something that kind of popped up,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I don't know exactly the time. He did have a little bit of soreness in the game. Again, it's not to the point where you're saying this is something that holds him out a while.”

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Gibson did have ankle surgery on his left ankle in June 2015, but he’s been an iron man this year, starting every game to this point and averaging 12 points with 7.3 rebounds.

Hoiberg said he’s not sure if Gibson will need an MRI or if this injury is somehow related to the ankle surgery that cost Gibson several months in the 2015 offseason.

It seems Hoiberg will start off with Zipser and then use Mirotic and Bobby Portis as reserves against the Mavericks team that gave the Bulls a 25-point whipping in Dallas on Dec. 3, their second-worst loss of the year.

“Again, we hope to sit him tonight, have a couple days off to rest and get him back in the lineup in the next one,” Hoiberg said. “We felt it was best to hold him out tonight."

Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki: Growing up 'I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan'

Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki: Growing up 'I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan'

When Dirk Nowitzki was a young teenager growing up in Wurzburg, Germany, there were only a few NBA games on TV each week. And more times than not, in 1991 and 1992, the team seen most frequently was the Chicago Bulls.

It's why Nowitzki told reporters on Tuesday at the United Center that the Bulls were his favorite team as he grew up and learned to love basketball.

"I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan. If there was any franchise I would love to play for back then, it was the Bulls. Obviously Jordan, I was a huge (Scottie) Pippen fan. Pippen was actually my favorite for a long time. Just his versatility, his shooting, his defense, his rebounding, his playmaking.

"So I was a huge Pippen guy. and then later (Dennis) Rodman, (Toni) Kukoc. They had some great, great teams. and back in the day (Germany) only showed one, two games a week, and it was usually Chicago. So, great, great sports town, great history, and it's always fun to play here."

After a successful stint in Germany, playing for DJK Wurzburg from 1994 to 1998, Nowitzki was the 9th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. The Bucks traded his rights to the Mavericks, where Nowitzki has been ever since.

The future Hall of Famer's illustrious career has included an NBA title and Finals MVP in 2011, four selections to the All-NBA First Team, and he's sixth all-time in NBA in history in points. He needs just 307 more points to reach 30,000 for his career.

For what it's worth, the Bulls drafted 28th in that 1998 NBA Draft and selected Corey Benjamin.

Dirk and the Mavericks square off against the Bulls tonight at 7 p.m. on CSN+.