Bulls' comeback bid falls short against Warriors

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Bulls' comeback bid falls short against Warriors

OAKLANDThe curse of Oracle Arena continued for the Bulls (1-1) against the Warriors (1-1) Monday night, as Chicago lost on the road to Golden State for the third consecutive time, 99-91.

Derrick Rose once again struggled in Oakland and the Bulls defense was uncharacteristically poor in the second game of the young season, as they failed to complete an improbable late comeback for the second straight night.

No defense, turned the ball over, put them into the open floor and gave them a lot of confidence early. You cant do that against a team like this, observed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team committed 20 turnovers on the evening.

Well, I think when youre on the road, you have to understand how difficult it is to win on the road, so you prepare yourself by being ready at the start of the game and you have to play defense, and you cant make it easy on them and youve got to take care of the ball. Youve got to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourself first and then you have to establish your defensive game first. You have to know who you are: defend, rebound, inside-out, share the ball, low turnovers.

A fast-paced start to the contest played to the home teams strengths, as the transition-loving Warriors played at their desired pace. David Lee got the upper hand in his matchup with power-forward counterpart Carlos Boozer, though the Alaska native was able to get a semblance of revenge as the first quarter went on. The visitors successfully got new acquisition Rip Hamilton (10 points, four assists) involved from the outset and the game was a close-knit affair.

Meanwhile, Golden States go-to scorer, Monta Ellis wreaked havoc on the Bulls defense with 13 points in the opening periodgetting buckets in a variety of methods, from posting up the taller Hamilton to fast-break layups and deep jumperspropelling the Warriors to an early advantage. Through one quarter of play, the Bulls trailed, 30-22.

Contributions from reserves Kwame Brown, Brandon Rush and Ekpe Udoh propelled the Warriors, guided by star point guard Stephen Currys stellar floor generalship, to a double-digit winning margin early in the second period. Chicagos vaunted defense failed them and sloppy play reigned on the offensive end, even after Thibodeau reinserted his regulars, as a rash of turnovers compounded matters.

Our defense was bad and theyre a very good pick-and-roll team. We kind of struggled all game keeping them out of the paint. From the start of the game, I thought our defense wasnt there. A team like that, after the first quarter, they got confidence and they played with the lead the whole game, said Luol Deng.

Youve got to play hard and I thought, for some reason, they played harder than us from the start of the game and we cant keep doing that. I know its only two games, but falling behind and fighting back, its never fun and thats not the kind of basketball we want to play. We dont want to get into scrambling and trying to catch up all game. It just takes us out of our game.

After trailing by as much as 19 points, Rose (13 points on 4-for-17 shooting and 1-for-8 from three-point range, eight assists) decided he had enough. Perhaps the shellacking they took on the same court a season ago, in which he committed a career-high nine turnovers, motivated him and began to put his own unique stamp on the game, aided by Hamiltons perimeter marksmanship, in an effort to chip away at the deficit. But continued unforced miscues, lapses in transition on both ends, the smaller Warriors ability to compete on the boards and plain old errant shooting from the Bulls put them in a 57-41 hole at halftime.

Things didnt get much better for the Bulls after the break, as the trio of Lee (22 points, seven rebounds), Curry (21 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, six steals) and Ellis (26 points, seven assists) continued to decimate the guests of raucous Oracle Arena with their scoring prowess. Deng (22 points, 10 rebounds) was one of the few bright spots, but his individual efforts werent enough to counter an overall poor shooting performance, surprising ineffectiveness on defense and a general lack of focus.

Usually, your turnovers are a result of one of two things: either the risky pass or its one-on-one. We had a combination of those two things, said Thibodeau. Ellis and Curry are hard to guard normally, so then, you put them into the open floor and theyre coming at you with a live ball, and then were not back on the raise of the shot, so were not protecting the basket. Youre giving them easy baskets. You give a team like that easy baskets, their confidence goes way up and theyre impossible to stop after that. We cant play like that. We have to play defense, we have to rebound and we have to take care of the ball.

Golden States up-tempo approach and improved defensive intensity were appreciated by their always-supportive fans and the arenas carnival-like atmosphere only grew rowdier as the Warriors maintained their wide winning margin. Thibodeau made adjustments, tinkered with his lineups and went deep into his playbook in an attempt sway the tide, but the Bulls couldnt do anything right in a third quarter that ended with them on the wrong end of a 78-61 score.

Early in the final stanza, Chicagos inadequacy could be summed up by Curry tossing his second half-court alley-oop of the gamethe first, early in the contest was to Lee; swingman Dorell Wright received the secondan occurrence almost never seen against the Bulls, let alone twice in the same contest. Currys blend of scoring and playmaking gave the visitors increasing trouble as the game wore on, but the determined Bulls, as usual, refused to give up hope in what appeared to be a blowout loss in the making.

Thibodeaus troops soldiered on in their usual dogged fashionto counter Golden States small-ball quintet and zone defense, Deng and Rose partnered with reserves Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver (11 points) and C.J. Watson (13 points); the latter, a former Warrior, provided one of his patented scoring bursts in his old stomping grounds.

The Bulls trimmed a 19-point deficit to single digits with under five minutes to play. The action was fast and furious as the game entered its stretch run, but the Bulls made little headway, despite Watsons scoring, Gibsons inspired interior defense and Korvers late three-point barrage, resulting in new Warriors head coach Mark Jacksons first win.

Well, thats their strength, is the way they push and we ended up getting in such a big hole that we felt like we had to try to do something to speed it up the other way, so we could get going a little bit. But youre playing in such a big hole and youre scrambling to get back, said Thibodeau.

We were just searching, to be honest with you. It was a flat game. We had to get some energy into the game and so, we went with the two point guards, Lu had been playing well the whole game and Kyle gives us the three, so we felt we could get it up quickly and maybe make up some ground with the three.

Added Joakim Noah: Weve just got to play better as a team. Its disappointing to lose like this, but weve got to bounce back. Weve got another one in a couple days.

We cant let teams score on us the way that theyve been scoring on us. Theres a lot of improvement to be made, he continued. Its frustrating to lose the way that we lost and theres definitely a lot of things that we need to do better to go to where we want to go.

Thibodeau just said it was expletive and hes right. Were not going to get to where we want to get to playing defense like that and its frustrating. We have to improve, the center, who grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, went on to say.

Theres a lot of areas where we have to improve. Even though we won against the Lakers Sunday, we played well in lapses, but theres definitely areas that we need to get better at to get to where we want to get to.

They scored a lot of points off our turnovers in transition, bad pick-and-roll defense, bad post defense, lack of communicationeverything. Our defense was just bad. It was better at the end.

A dejected Rose appeared to take the loss just as hard.

Defense, defense, defense, he said. Of course, I missed a lot of bunnies tonight, open shots I normally hit, along with some of the other people on the team, but defensively, I think our communication, thats a big thing, but we can always fix it. All these things, we can learn from. If anything, its going to make us a better team.

The biggest thing is how quick we can jell. I think thats everybodys concern right now, he continued. Well play this team again. For sure.

We just dont want one of these nights again, anytime soon. Just learn from it and try to keep it moving. But remember.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it's probably a little too late in the season for that, they'll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They'll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They'll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

"The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We're going to have to match that. We're going to have to come out and play physical basketball."

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it's just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

"I did, actually," said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he's scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside's tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg — although one can imagine how animated he must've been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

"It is what it is," Hoiberg said. "You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there's nothing you can do about that. You've got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute."

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn't seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls' success over LeBron James' Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

"Against big teams, we play much better," Mirotic said. "I don't know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It's on us. We just have to prove it."

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who've just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

"Sure, we understand," Mirotic said. "We've been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy."