Since the All-Star break, the talk around the Bulls has centered on playing with necessary intensity.
After a disappointing 101-96 loss to the Kyrie Irving-less Cleveland Cavaliers, the short-handed Bulls are now losers of three out of their last five since the All-Star Break.
“We’ve exhaled and the results are not going to be good,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to correct that. We’re looking for mental toughness. We’re facing some adversity. Dig down, get the job done and get dirty. That’s what you have to do. If the commitment is there, and you’re doing the right things, than the results will be good.
“We can’t pick and choose. We can’t play one side of the ball,” he continued. “It can’t be the offense one night and the defense the next night. In this league, everyone is capable of beating you. Until we get our level of intensity up and play with high energy at both ends of the floor for 48 minutes, the results are not going to be good. You get what you deserve in this league and we’re getting what we deserve right now. Until we change that, we’re going to have problems. We’re short-handed. You got to play with great intensity and you got to do it with your entire team. We’re not doing that right now.”
While two of their blowout losses came at the hands of the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, the normal principles of execution that are keys to winning were never more absent than against a team they had dominated for 11 straight games entering tonight.
The Bulls (32-25) were outrebounded, out-hustled to loose balls, poor on defensive rotations – allowing back-to-back uncontested drives by Cleveland’s Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller in the fourth quarter that put them down 87-78 before a timeout woke them up – and outplayed for a majority of the game.
[WATCH: Noah: We just have to find a way]
The Cavaliers bench burned the Bulls reserves, too, 36-19.
The only good was Kirk Hinrich returning from sitting three straight games and helping the flow of the offense. He finished with 11 of the Bulls' 33 assists.
Still short-handed with Taj Gibson out for at least two weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, the Bulls' urgency to pick up their effort has heightened.
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“We’re not playing very well right now,” Joakim Noah said. “We have to find a way to play with more urgency, not play so frustrated. We just have to do a better job. We have to play with more urgency and play together. I think that it’s disappointing right now. We’re on a long stretch where we haven’t been playing great basketball. We just have to find a way.”
The Bulls have a no-excuse attitude, so the notion that the team has worn down from the amount of games while over-compensating in being short-handed is one no one will acknowledge.
“We’re not the only team that’s played this amount of [games],” he continued. “Every team in the league has. This is what separates teams. The teams that can get it done when, maybe they’re not feeling their best, and still be committed to doing the job, and getting it done. Those are the teams that have success. Right now, there are no shortcuts. You have to put the work into it.”