CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls understand their problems. They just haven't figured out the solutions.
The Bulls were again at a loss for answers to why their defense, rebounding and energy weren't where they needed to be during Monday's 91-81 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, who had arrived to the United Center with an 18-game losing streak and departed with their first win since late November.
All the Bulls know is something has to quickly change in 2013.
"We just got to find a way out of it," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "We're obviously not playing as well as we can. We've played better this year. Not going to make excuses, we just got to find a way out of it."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believed the origins of their problems began when the New York Knicks out-scored the Bulls 45-27 in the fourth quarter on Dec. 21. The Bulls defeated the Knicks that day, but Thibodeau has noticed a change since then. They were blown out by the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets in their two games following the win over the Knicks. They then defeated the Washington Wizards by 10 points on Saturday before losing to the Bobcats.
"We just got to work our way out of it," Thibodeau said. "It's been since the third quarter of that game, the fourth quarter of the New York game."
Thibodeau has especially been alarmed by the Bulls' recent starts. On Monday, the Bobcats jumped out to a 28-18 lead in the first quarter.
"For some reason, and I have to figure this out, I have to have us ready at the start of the game," Thibodeau said. "We have to have an edge at the start of the game. We can't ease our way into the game and say, ‘Okay we're good. We'll get it corrected.' It doesn't work that way.
"Everyone has a job to do. My job is to make sure they're ready. When they're out there, they have to do their job. We all have to do a lot better. Right now, things aren't going our way. We got to make things go our way."
Deng thought the way back for the Bulls was through playing with more energy. He thought they came with it during the third quarter on Monday, and that was why they out-scored the Bobcats 23-18 during that quarter. The Bobcats bounced back in the fourth quarter and out-scored the Bulls 26-16 for the win.
"When you're struggling together, the next game you just got to come out and play harder," Deng said. "I thought that third quarter we played hard. So next game, just come out and play hard again."
The Bulls could use that, but they could also use getting healthy in the new year. Kirk Hinrich missed Monday's game with a variety of injuries, and Joakim Noah wasn't a factor due to the flu. Of course, there's always the hope of Derrick Rose's return sometime in 2013.
"We're banged up, but no excuses," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "We got to play through it and get ourselves out of the funk. We just got a little funk right now. It's up and down in the season. We just have to push our way through it."