The fact the Bulls were facing a Western Conference power is mitigated by their three-day break leading up to Friday night’s 91-74 loss to the Trail Blazers at the United Center.
That said, sometimes all the analysis in the world can’t explain what basic statistics are able to: Portland shot 10-for-22 from three-point range and the Bulls shot 3-for-17 for deep. Those numbers alone were a major factor in the game’s result.
“We were flat and they had something to do with that,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said, stating the obvious. “We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, so that was a problem.
“It just seemed like we were a step behind the play. A couple of them were scramble threes. You can live with that,” he went to explain about his team’s three-point defense. “But a couple other ones, we lacked discipline on close-outs, allowed the ball to get to the middle and they made good plays. They played unselfishly. But we didn’t cover the line the way we needed to.”
Mike Dunleavy Jr. added: “Yeah, we just didn’t cover the line well. A lot of it was in transition. We just got mixed up sometimes. That’s hard to do against a great shooting team and that’s their strength. We did a pretty good job against Aldridge, but they can beat you in a lot of different ways.
“I just thought we got some good looks early on, they didn’t go down and it just sort of snowballed from there. It’s just one of those nights. It’s not our best. Not our best, for sure,” he continued. “Hard to say what the reason was for our performance, but it just wasn’t good enough, so hopefully we bounce back against Boston.”
The Bulls’ lack of energy was evident and even when they tried to mount comebacks, as they were playing from behind almost the entire evening, it lacked conviction and couldn’t be sustained, despite being so well-rested, with three days off since Monday’s triumphant home win over the Pacers.
“We got beat in every aspect of the game,” All-Star center Joakim Noah observed. “No excuses. I think we didn’t have the edge that we usually do. Maybe the break did something.”
Jimmy Butler concurred: “We’ve got to bring it every night. Tonight, I think we just didn’t bring the energy they had and we didn’t make shots, and we damn sure didn’t guard. But I think emotion goes into a lot of that. When we’re riled up and ready to go, the game changes for us.”
A back-to-back, home-and-home series with the Celtics awaits the Bulls, beginning Sunday in Boston.
“For us, it’s about improvement, each and every day. So I don’t want to look back at Indiana. We lost this game, we’re going to analyze why we lost it, make our corrections, get ready for Boston,” Thibodeau said. “One game is not the end-all either way, so you want to keep building. Hopefully you’re building the right habits. You’ve got to be ready to bounce back.”
On an evening that should have been a celebratory occasion—the players and coaches had long left the arena before the final score of New York’s loss to Phoenix, clinching a playoff spot for the Bulls, despite the loss—the focus on getting refocused.