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Energy wasn't there for Bulls, Rose

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose's entire body seemed to be covered in ice after the Chicago Bulls' 97-85 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.

Rose sat in stone silence in front of his locker with two bulky ice packs over his knees, a paraffin wax wrap on one of his hands and a pit in the bottom of his stomach that wasn't going away anytime soon. No matter what he used to make his beaten-up body feel better, it wasn't going to dull the pain that comes when you turn the ball over 10 times and lose a game you think you should have won.

"We came out sluggish," a frustrated Rose said. "This one was definitely on me. Didn't come out with the intensity and we played like crap tonight."

The man speaks the truth.

Unlike countless other games this season, the Bulls played flat from the outset on Monday night, especially Rose. Sure, he scored 31 points, but even he couldn't seem to believe how many turnovers he committed.

"Just careless," he said. "Just careless. But I'm going to learn from it, watch video, and I should be all right."

While Rose undoubtedly deserves criticism for the way he played, it was a complete team collapse in the first half that was the Bulls’ undoing. The energy and focus that the Bulls have played with all year was non-existent in the first half, and no matter how hard Rose pushed back later, it simply wasn't enough.

"We've got to start the games better," Carlos Boozer said. "I think the game was won and lost in that first quarter. Give them credit, they took it to us. 27-13 in the first quarter, that's tough to come back from even though we did, we fought back. We used a lot of energy to get back in the game. We can't get down by that much. Give them credit, they did a good job. We've got to step up to that challenge and have a better first quarter."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau thinks the problems go deeper than that.

"The one thing I do know is that when you practice well, you play well," Thibodeau said. "If you are not putting in a lot into practice, you are not going to have an edge in the game. If you don't have an edge in the game, you are putting yourself in a bad position. Philly lost a game at home [Sunday] night. I knew they would be ready tonight. We weren't. We came out flat."

That was the sentiment throughout the Bulls locker room.

"[Thibodeau] was just saying that he saw it in practice," Rose said. "Where we came in, we wasn't together, we wasn't focused. And that's what happened. You're not focused in practice, you come out and think that everything is going to be easy, but this team is fighting for a spot."

That's the most ironic part of Monday night's game. The Sixers simply outworked the team that has spent the entire year outworking their opponents.

"There's really no excuses," Joakim Noah said. "It's a wake-up call. We don't have anything figured out. We don't have anything figured out. People are always telling [us], ‘Oh, it's OK. You guys are going to win this game. It's easy.’ Nothing's easy in this league, it just shows us. We didn't start the game with the right mindset and it bit us in the [butt] tonight."

Noah, like Rose, believes that the Bulls simply didn't have enough focus.

"You've got to come out with the right edge," Noah said. "When you start thinking that you have it all figured out, that's when you lose. Losing always sucks, but we've got to learn from this. And there's definitely a lot of areas to improve in."

Obviously, even for a team that sits 33 games over .500, there are plenty of ways to get better.

"It will get even tougher now, where teams are fighting for a spot," Rose said. "And when you come out lackadaisical like we did tonight, like I did tonight, you're going to lose games. I try to learn from every game. I know next game we play, I'm definitely not going to come out like that, because the team, they follow me."

Yes, they do.

On this night, they followed Rose down an unfamiliar and miserable path that they hope to not go down again anytime soon.