CHICAGO -- If you ever wanted to see what a difference the fourth game in five nights makes on NBA teams, you should have tuned into Tuesday night's Bobcats-Bulls slugfest.
From the start, both teams lacked the energy fans usually sees from NBA teams on most nights. The offensive sets, on both ends, looked like they were stuck in quicksand. The Bulls shot just 39 percent from the floor, while the Bobcats weren't much better at a 40 percent clip. The differences between winning and losing in this one were small, but as the game progressed, they were easy to see. Let's take a look at a few of the reasons why the Bobcats were able to snap the Bulls' three-game winning streak:
D-Rose had no help: Derrick Rose had 33 points, but he took 28 shots. Ronnie Brewer had a nice night with 12 points and five rebounds, but after that, the Bulls didn't have much of an answer offensively. Luol Deng had just 10, going 2-for-11 from the field. Kyle Korver had just six, going 2-for-6 from the field. In order for the Bulls to win games without Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah on the floor, somebody else has to step up and help Rose offensively. That didn't happen Tuesday night.
"Derrick has been leading us this whole season, but we got other guys on this team who can step up and we got to make plays," Brewer said. "We got to make defensive stops and make plays on the offensive end. Tonight, Charlotte made more plays than we did."
As Rose noted, it wasn't just regular plays, it was "hustle plays." The Bobcats seemed to get an extra rebound on several key sequences and took better care of the ball all night, turning it over just seven times, compared to the Bulls' 13.
"It was a tough one," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "Going back and visualizing the game you look at the letdowns we had. We turned the ball over many different times. We gave them a lot of second chance shots late. It's just frustrating looking back on it."
No D in the paint: Aside from fatigue, the biggest difference in the game was evident in the post. The Bobcats outscored the Bulls 46-28 in the paint and repeatedly got baskets from close range. The loss of Boozer and Noah really caught up to the Bulls in this one, but nobody wanted to use that as an excuse after it was over.
"Of course we miss those guys, those are two of our main leaders, but like Coach Tibs said, guys will have to push through," Gibson said. "Guys will have to keep playing. There's no letdown. We've been in the situation before earlier in the season. There's no letdown. Guys will just get better."
Gibson knows the Bulls have to learn how to push through the mental grind that comes with playing so many games in a row.
"You have to," Gibson said. "If you want to be one of the elite teams in this league, especially East Coast, you have to just push through. A game like this came down to the very end."
In the end, not having Boozer and Noah finally did the Bulls in on this night.
No rest for the weary: The Bulls looked exhausted. There's no denying that. The difference was that the Bobcats were playing their fourth game in five nights as well and somehow they found a way to make a few more plays at the end. That's what frustrated Rose and his teammates the most.
"It seemed like it tonight," Rose said, when asked if fatigue was finally starting to set in. "But there's no excuses in this game. We still got to go out there and play them games even if we're tired. If anything, we just learn from this and keep it going."
The Bulls learned that they still have a little maturation to do.
"Coach Thibs says good teams have to push through," Gibson said. "We just have to push through that span. We had the game in our hands, we just couldn't counteract late and it hurt us."
That was the sentiment throughout the Bulls' locker room.
"We've all done this before," Korver said. "You don't want to use that as an excuse, but we still had our chances to win the game, all the way through. We just couldn't really put a run together to put us over the top."
Injury update: Boozer still appears to be a couple days away, at least. For what it's worth, after the game ended, he was driven away from the Bulls' locker room in a golf cart. Maybe it was just a precautionary measure, but it certainly didn't appear as if his ankle was close to full strength.
Noah will have the pin taken out of his thumb next Tuesday. He should be able to start the rehab process in full shortly thereafter.
The last word: "We easily should have won this game tonight." -- Rose