From hearing how theyre not the same team from the past two seasons without Derrick Rose and the Bench Mob, and no consistency in the principles that put them in title conversations during that stretch, the Bulls' 6-7 start can be summed up in one obvious word -- frustration.
Those issues seemed to all culminate in their 93-92 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, as they watched a 27-point third-quarter lead evaporate courtesy of Milwaukees reserves, who closed the game by outscoring the Bulls 42-12 over the final 14:50 of play.
Im stunned, just on the simple fact that when you have a 27-point lead, and the way that we defend, you never expect a team to make a run like that, especially to play harder than us in the fourth, said Richard Hamilton, who scored a season-high 30 points, also his most as a Bull.
You have a team down, you have to keep them down, he continued. We kind of gave them a little bit of confidence at the end of the third quarter. Once they got rolling, we couldnt stop them.
For two-and-a-half quarters, the Bulls appeared on their way to their 10th straight win over Central Division foes, but whether due to fatigue, lack of focus or a combination of both they fell apart.
We didnt look like the same team, Kirk Hinrich said. It seemed like we just kind of got away from everything we were doing to get the lead. Obviously, youre going to make mistakes out there, but we kind of compounded them, and they capitalized on them."
The rotation has been in question as well as the collective production of the reserve unit and thats sure to continue as no starter played less than 38 minutes in the loss, with Luol Deng playing a game-high 47.
While it is unfair to compare given that statistic, the Bucks reserves outscored the Bulls 56-10.
The loss is the fourth in five games for the Bulls.
While its still early in the season, the standard they have come to expect from themselves makes the way theyre losing the more disappointing.
The loss counts the same as the six that came before it and with 69 games remaining, they wont dwell on this, given coach Thibodeaus penchant on not looking back. But unless they find some answers, more frustrating losses will continue to pile up. Even when they looked their best, it only took a desperate group of reserves to make them look average.
You never have a game won until the final horn goes off, said a frustrated Thibodeau. In this league, if youre not a 48-minute team, youre asking for trouble. As soon as you start feeling good about yourself, youre going to get knocked on your expletive and thats what happened.
You have to play 48 minutes in this league, and we still have a long way to go in that area.