Gibson: Bulls need to impose their will in Game 3

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Gibson: Bulls need to impose their will in Game 3

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Many have tried to break down the Bulls' surprising and disheartening Game 2 loss to the 76ers at home Tuesday. A lot of analysis went into what the Bulls did wrong and what they didn't do right.

But for forward Taj Gibson, any analysis came down to just one word -- will.

"The lack of defensive play the last game was bad. But it's always going to come down to will," Gibson said We've seen each other many times this year. So it's all going to come down to will, who wants it more."

The Bulls streaked out to a 55-47 lead at halftime Tuesday night but got annihilated in the third quarter, surrendering 36 points and 68.2 percent shooting (15-for-22) to the Sixers while draining just 5-of-20 shots (25 percent) for 14 points.

Philadelphia picked up 11 fastbreak points in the third quarter alone.

"We have to adjust to the speed and quickness of the game," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the team's practice on Thursday.

"We just kinda slumped," Gibson said. "It happens. They got out on break and we didn't get out on transition. They capitiliazed on a lot of fastbreak points...They got a lot of offensive rebounds, a lot of kick-outs. They just beat us up on the boards really."

The Bulls dominated on the boards in the first game 47-38 and started out with a 20-16 advantage in the first half of Game 2. However, in that dreaded third quarter, the Sixers pushed the Bulls around inside and outrebounded Chicago 14-5.

Thibodeau preaches rebounding as one of the main keys to every game and his counterpart in Philadelphia, Doug Collins, took a page out of that book for Game 2. Collins fiddled with his lineup and made rebounding a point of emphasis for his team after the Sixers' loss in the series opener.

The 76ers were especially focused on trying to take away the Bulls' offensive rebounding. Chicago pulled down eight offensive boards in the first half of Game 2, but managed just two in the entire second half, a big reason for the offensive inefficiency. But Gibson wasn't ready to make excuses.

"Offensive rebounds are important, but we have to do other things. There's so many different aspects to helping a team win and helping us succeed," the third-year power forward said. "Offensive rebounds have been our key all year long. We're a strong rebounding team, from the bench to the starters. Not having those were big, but it's all about effort."

After dropping a demoralizing game at home, the Bulls will now have to win on the road to take the edge in the series. They have lost back-to-back games just one time since the beginning of the 2010-11 season.

"Nothing really changes," Gibson said. "Everything is still the same. We've been in this situation before last year with Atlanta in the second round. We just tend to look at it as another game that we have to play harder in and adjust in and we're just looking forward to the challenge.

"It's been tough, but we have to come with effort, play a little harder and things will be fine. It's playoffs. Nothing's easy. They just wanted it more than us last game, so we have to take it up a notch."

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

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Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.