No matter how hard the Bulls play over the next few weeks, they've got a problem that they aren't going to be able to shake until Joakim Noah returns.
They don't have enough talent to compete against the elite teams in the NBA right now.
They proved that again on Saturday night in a 122-116 loss to the Mavericks -- the team's fourth loss in a row. The bigger problem for the Bulls is that the season is slowly slipping through their fingertips and there really isn't much they can do about it.
When the team scores, as it did on Saturday night, it doesn't defend well. Without the physical and emotional presence of Noah, the team just seems to be a little bit out of sync. What has to be even more disconcerting for coach Vinny Del Negro and company, though, is the fact that even when Derrick Rose scores 34 points and dishes out eight assists, as he did on Saturday night, the team still can't win.
"We gave it our all," Rose said. "But they were too good of a team."
The ironic part is that Rose's quote could probably be used to describe the way the Bulls will be playing over the next two weeks as well.
The team played about as well, at least offensively, as it possibly can at the moment. The team shot 47 percent from the field. They actually out-rebounded the Mavericks 37-31. And they played hard until the final buzzer. Problem is, the Bulls have more flaws than just Noah's absence. And those problems become more apparent against better competition.
The biggest problem which reared its head against the Mavericks is that they team still doesn't have a consistent scoring option besides Rose. Luol Deng, who has provided that punch over the last couple weeks, shot just 2-for-8 from the field and scored just six points.
"We got to turn it around right now," Deng said. "We got to look at how many games we got left and somehow we got to get wins. Right now, with 20 games left, it's not about individual stats or anything. It's about getting the win. And we got 20 games to get as many wins as we can."
How are the Bulls going to get any more wins at the moment though? Their next six games are against teams at or above .500 and the momentum that they had built up over the last two weeks against weaker competition appears to be gone.
"Just keep working, that's all you can do," a dejected Del Negro said after the game. "You can't keep your head down. You can't worry about what people say. You just got to go to work every day. Try to get better. Try to prepare well for the next game.
"I thought our effort was good tonight. Some of our execution wasn't great. They're an explosive offensive team. We have to control the glass. Get some easy baskets. Rebound the ball a little bit better at some of our positions. But, [the Mavericks] have won 11 in a row for a reason."
That reason is because the Mavericks have a lot of talent. At the moment, the cold reality for the Bulls is that they do not have enough.