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 fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

Bulls fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

DALLAS (AP) -- Wesley Matthews has taken greater responsibility with Dirk Nowitzki out of the Dallas Mavericks' lineup much of this season.

Matthews scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half of Dallas' 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

"Matthews was the star of the game, obviously," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He is our leader right now with Dirk out. He really sets the tone for us in the locker room and on the floor. He is just the vocal guy."

Matthews has accepted the expanded role as Nowitzki has been limited to five games by a strained right Achilles tendon.

"I feel like that's one of the reasons why they brought me over here (from Portland). Through this rough patch, injuries and everything, everybody had to mold together. It's almost like we had to restructure ourselves. I think everybody has embraced that."

Harrison Barnes scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half to help Dallas improve to 4-15.

Chicago was coming off a 111-105 victory over defending champion Cleveland on Friday night.

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Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 26 points.

"I don't think anybody played well tonight," Butler said. "We didn't play with energy on either end of the floor."

Barnes powered the Mavericks to a 17-point first-quarter lead with eight points.

"They came out and threw the first punch and kept throwing, and we could just never recover from that," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We did expend a lot of energy (Friday) night."

Dwight Powell (17) and rookie Dorian Finney-Smith (11) had career highs in scoring, and Deron Williams had a season-high 15 assists with only one turnover.

"The biggest thing was we were even (43-43) on the boards," Carlisle said. Andrew Bogut had a game-high 11 rebounds, and Powell grabbed eight.

Neither team scored in the first 2:15, but Dallas went on a 7-0 run over the next 1:20. The Mavericks led 23-6 with 3:17 left. The quarter ended with Dallas leading 29-18. Bogut had six points and eight rebounds.

Chicago pulled within six points three times in the second quarter, but Dallas finished the first half with a 57-45 lead. In the third quarter, Matthews had 14 points, and the Maverick led by as many as 21 points.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

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