OKLAHOMA CITY -- After watching his team get worked up and down the court all night and shoot just 29.1 percent from the field in a 102-72 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, Tom Thibodeau left no doubt as to what part of the game in which he was most disappointed.
"Everything," the frustrated coach said.
The Bulls stunk and Thibodeau knew it. The Bulls allowed the Thunder to control the tempo throughout the night, but what has to be more disconcerting for them is that their offensive execution was atrocious. They couldn't find any rhythm as players lobbed up brick after brick.
"The way we competed was just embarrassing," Bulls center Joakim Noah said.
He was right. The Bulls have had plenty of poor showings this season, but the loss to the Thunder combined with the loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday night was like watching teams compete on two different levels. Obviously, playing without Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, who missed his third consecutive game because of elbow problems, is finally catching up with this tired team.
"It's not rocket science to know that," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said. "It's totally different with Derrick and even Kirk, but we definitely got guys in here that know how to play. And we know how to play off each other. It's just that we got to be smarter, we got to be smarter and understand where we want to get the ball at, how we're going to score and who we need to feed off of."
That was Thibodeau's message to his team after the game. They have to play better and move the ball more -- even against better teams. They have to play harder and tougher to get out of their funk, something they didn't do against the Thunder.
"Against good teams you've got to get to the second and third option," Thibodeau said. "The ball has to move, it has to be high energy. You have to sprint into screens, you have to set great screens, you have to pass the ball on target, you have to have timing and spacing. You have to do what's best for the team, not necessarily what's best for yourself to get yourself going. You can't get stuck in whatever problems you're having individually. You have to do your job for the team -- first."
That was an assessment with which Hamilton agreed. Aside from the poor shooting performance, the Bulls' other glaring weakness was ball movement, or lack thereof. After racking up 37 assists against the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night, the Bulls managed just 14 dimes against the Thunder.
"We got to be better," Hamilton said. "It's easier to score against bad teams that really don't have a whole lot of principles. But when you play against good teams like Miami, Oklahoma City, it's kind of like playoff-style games; you got to be better at not just your first option but your second and your third, because good defensive teams know how to take away first options, try to have you take shots from different places where you don't want to -- so you just got to really study your offense and understand that you might not score on the first option."
Thibodeau will undoubtedly remind his team of that in the coming days, but the issue is the same as it always has been for the Bulls. They can beat bad teams in the regular season and pick up some wins over quality teams here and there, but when the offense sputters there is no answer against elite-level teams like the Thunder.
"We have to do our jobs," Thibodeau said. "Do our jobs. We've shown when we do that we're capable of beating anyone. We have to be mentally tougher. We have to be stronger. When you face a little bit of adversity if you're short-handed, you have to dig down and get the job done. ... We got to play a lot tougher. Our level of intensity has to be much higher. We got to get that part right. We got to get it right quickly."
The Bulls still believe that they can, but their patience is starting to wear a little thin.
"It's very humbling to lose like that," Noah said. "We just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and do better. This isn't getting it done and it's tough. ... Our intensity was bad tonight. We took steps backwards. That's what's frustrating. We've played a lot better this year so there's really no excuse. We just got to bounce back ASAP."