Bulls in a 'funk' these days, playing down to competition


Bulls in a 'funk' these days, playing down to competition

The end result of Saturdays 91-81 loss to the Bobcats aside, whenever a Bulls team coached by Tom Thibodeau doesnt display maximum effort on the court, its troubling. Sure, there were built-in excuses, such as Kirk Hinrichs absence due to injury or Joakim Noah playing through illnessJo wasnt feeling well today, Thibodeau said afterwards. He gave us what he hadbut this is a team that doesnt use adversity as a reason for losing and besides, they were hosting Charlotte, previously losers of 18 straight games.

Weve just got to work our way out of it, a dejected Thibodeau explained afterwards. Everyone has a job to do. My job is to make sure theyre ready and then, when theyre out there, theyve got to do their job, so we all have to do a lot better and right now, things arent going our way, and weve got to make things go our way.

We put ourselves in a hole right off the bat. The defense and the rebounding and the low turnovers, that has to be there every night and right now, were not getting that done, so weve got to figure out a way to get that corrected. You can live with the shotssome nights, youre going to shoot it better than othersbut the defense and the rebounding is not where it needs to be, he continued. Every team in this league is talented. You look at the guys coming off the bench: Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions, those are two big-time scorers. Kemba Walkers playing well. Youve got three guys who can crack you off the dribble. Henderson has been a very good player in the league for a while now, so theyre good. Youve got to give them credit. They played well, very well.

You cant get discouraged if youre missing shots. Right now, were not a 48-minute team. For some reasonand Ive got to figure this outI have to have us ready at the start of the game. We have to have an edge at the start of the game. We cant ease our way into the game and say, Okay, were good. Well get it corrected. It doesnt work like that.

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Defensively, while the offensively-challenged Bobcats didnt resemble the Showtime Lakers, their ability to get into the paint against the vaunted Bulls defense was alarming, as was the fact that the home team continues to struggle on the glass, though some of that could be attributed to an under the weather Noah, as his coach described him.

On the other end of the floor, there was no cohesiveness and while Hinrich not being availablethe veteran point guard is day to day with a compilation of things, Thibodeau said during his pregame media availability, prior to which Hinrich attempted to warm up, but its suspected that his right knee (which would be his sixth separate injury this season) is the most pressing current issueto run the show didnt help matters, its not as if the Bulls dont experience periodic or even game-long droughts.

Were a desperate team right now. A losing streak is tough on you, so we had tactical stuff we wanted to take care of, but we just wanted to fight more than anything. I think it kind of showed in the way that we played defense tonight because weve been scoring the ball well, but I think our defense has been hurting us a lot. Weve been in a lot of games, but have been giving up points. Its hard to win when youre not playing good defense, relieved Bobcats swingman Gerald Henderson explained.

We played solid all the way through the game. In this entire losing streak weve had, weve kind of been up and down with it, especially at the end of games. We havent taken business on the defensive end, so I think our offense was consistent and they started fouling in the last four or five minutes, so that came down to just being strong, taking care of the ball and hitting our free throws.

Usually, however, the Bulls typical blend of defense, toughness and sheer determination gets the job done. Recently, that hasnt been the case.

Were banged up, but theres still no excuses. Weve just got to play through it and get ourselves out of the funk, Taj Gibson said. Every team has a slow start, but weve got to learn how to pick it up. Nobodys going to feel sorry for us, but weve got to get ourselves out of it.

Luol Deng concurred: Obviously were not playing as well as we can. Weve played better this year, so were not going to make excuses. Weve just got to find our way out of it.

We didnt get stops in the fourth and they went on a little run, got the lead and never looked back, he continued. Weve been there before. Weve just got to play hard. Obviously we want to win. Its not the end of the world. Just stay positive, keep playing together. When youre struggling like that, next game weve just got to come out and play harder.

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

In a season where the triple-double has become commonplace to the point of stat chasing in the effort to chase history, Dwyane Wade didn't mind snatching his own piece of turf.

In a game where teammate Jimmy Butler reached the feat for the first time this season, it would've been doubly satisfactory for Wade to achieve the fifth triple-double of his career.

One rebound away in the final seconds of the Bulls' 117-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the memo didn't reach Cristiano Felicio, who reached over Wade to grab a rebound, causing it to harmlessly fall out of bounds and ending Wade's chance at history.

After Wade finished with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes, he was asked if he "hated" Felicio for interrupting his moment.

"No hate. Just a strong dislike, though," said Wade with a wry smile. "You know how long it's been since I had a triple double? It's been a long time."

It's been six years, as his last triple-double came in the 2010-11 season with the Miami Heat, achieving the feat with a 22-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist performance against the then-Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 4, 2011.

Even more than the statistical feat was Wade's variety, as he grabbed seven rebounds in the decisive third-quarter run that broke the game open, hitting Butler and Bobby Portis for long touchdown passes that would've had Jay Cutler or whichever quarterback the Cleveland Browns are banking on next fall, blushing.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact it was on the second night of a back-to-back with the Bulls winning in overtime against the Phoenix Suns—a game where Wade turned it up late then threw it down over Alex Len in overtime.

"I think we just found our groove," Wade said. "We've had some injuries that have gone on but we're playing good basketball."

More pointedly, so is Wade, aided by him often finding Felicio for easy dunks on the pick and roll as they play second and fourth quarters together. 

Felicio was clearly bothered by his gaffe, which was made worse by the take-no-prisoners approach from Wade and Butler. When a member of foreign media approached him about an interview, Felicio said "you're not asking me about that last rebound, are you?"

Later in the evening, Felicio went to Twitter, posting "I did not know!!" in reference to Wade's night.

"I told him I didn't not even gonna act like I ain't mad at him. I'm very mad at him," said Wade with a laugh. "But he's all good. He said he didn't see me down there. So he took a shot at my height. It's cool. Jimmy had one. It would've been nice to have two triple doubles."

"I'm sure a stat would've came out that would've said, ‘Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are the first duo to get a triple-double on a back-to-back since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen', since they got every record around here."

He was close, although Jordan and Pippen didn't achieve their feat on a back-to-back but a random night in the 1988-89 season. Jordan scored 41 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Pippen had 15 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a 126-121 overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We laugh about that often, but it's all good," Wade said. "I gotta work harder till I get another one one day."

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