SAN ANTONIO -- The Chicago Bulls do not have more than enough to win with right now despite what coach Tom Thibodeau always preaches.
The Bulls have been a no-excuse team since Thibodeau took over three years ago but they have hit a wall as evidenced by their 101-83 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
Unless the Bulls play nearly flawless basketball for 48 minutes they do not have enough talent to beat elite level teams at this point in the season. Between the injuries to key players, a schedule that has been filled with solid teams of late, and general ineffectiveness down the stretch in games, a harsh reality has set in.
"Right now we're average," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Pretty average. It's frustrating because the potential is there. But we all have to look at each other in the mirror, every single one of us, me included. I didn't play well tonight, everybody, and do more. Just do more."
The problem for Noah and the Bulls is that there is only so much they can do. There's only so much talent a team can lose before it starts to catch up with them. For three quarters they hung tough with a championship contender Wednesday night, but in the fourth they were outscored 29-15.
They were quick to point to the fact that the defense was poor, and they had a point since the Spurs shot 54.1 percent from the field. But there is a larger issue for the Bulls, and it's become more glaring in recent weeks: The play from the point guard position isn't good enough right now.
Nate Robinson has played fairly well this season, but his play in recent weeks has been poor. He hasn't been able to find his shot, and he has taken far too many ill-advised jumpers, as was the case Wednesday as he went just 3-for-13 from the field.
Robinson has been battling sore ribs but every player seems to be battling some kind of nagging injury at this point in the season. Rookie Marquis Teague showed flashes of brilliance in the first half against the Spurs, knocking down a three three-pointers and slowly gaining more confidence, but he continues to struggle in getting his teammates into the offense.
Thibodeau gave Teague the offensive reigns in the fourth quarter, but he played like the rookie that he is, looking confused and frustrated on the floor.
"We got to be more competitive," Thibodeau said. "We got to compete out there, we got to be into the body, we got to be disciplined and we got to get things done defensively. You allow a team to shoot 54 percent or whatever, that's not good."
As much as Thibodeau doesn't want to use injuries as an easy way out, it's the truth of where his beleaguered team is in its season. For as much as Kirk Hinrich struggled early, he has been a solid presence for this group on the floor in the last two months consistently finding his teammates in the flow of the offense.
The problem for Hinrich is that he can't stay on the floor because of all the injuries he's dealt with, and it doesn't appear to be getting better any time soon since he admitted Wednesday morning that he is still having problems putting any weight on his right foot without the help of a walking boot.
Obviously, having Derrick Rose on the floor would solve many of the Bulls' problems but nobody is quite sure if the former MVP is even going to return this season. The Bulls have compensated nicely without him, but they miss his presence more than ever right now. That's because Thibodeau's offense needs movement in order to be successful and they weren't getting that in the second half against the Spurs.
So often over the past few years, Rose would just take the ball and make something out of nothing when his team's offense broke down. Now that he's gone, the Bulls don't have that luxury anymore and it hurts them more each day given they don't even have Hinrich or Richard Hamilton to rely upon.
The issue for the Bulls is that even on the nights when they play great defense, they still don't have enough offense to knock off superior teams. The defense may have been a problem against the Spurs but not nearly as big of a problem as the offensive woes down the stretch.
Until the Bulls can find some better point guard play, they will continue going down this downward spiral over the next two months of the season.
"We're super short-handed," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "If we have our full lineup the game is different. You've got to remember, we're playing without three of our best players. Not to make any excuses, but the facts are the facts. Reality is what it is. We're OK. Got to get home, get a win on Friday and keep moving."