CHICAGO -- It has to feel like Groundhog Day for Tom Thibodeau.
Just when you think his team is about to turn the corner after a major road win, it comes back to the United Center and lays an egg against a bad team. It has been the case all season, and was the case again Saturday night as the Chicago Bulls got blown out by the woeful Phoenix Suns, 97-81. With the win, the Suns are now 3-17 on the road this season. What's more telling for Thibodeau is that with the loss, his team is now 10-10 at the United Center this season.
"It can happen once in a great while, that's part of the game," Thibodeau said of the issues at home. "But it's too much. I have to figure it out. My job is to have us ready. We have to play with more intensity, more of an edge. We're not doing that. We've got to correct that."
The issue for the Bulls is that they don't know how to right now. They continue to play to the level of their competition, and Thibodeau's players know it.
"We're 10-10 at home. That's not very good, that's very average," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "There's obviously a problem if we're going on the road, beating some of the best teams and coming home against the lower-echelon teams and not even competing. So we have to fix that, and it's definitely something that I think we can solve, but it's going to take a lot of work."
What has to be maddening for Thibodeau is that yet again, in the span of 24 hours, the Bulls went into Madison Square Garden and knocked off the New York Knicks and then followed that up with a maddening effort at home. The Bulls play with a focus on the road that they simply don't have in Chicago.
"We're not ready to play at home," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said, relaying Thibodeau's message. "We come in here thinking this is Chicago, this is us, this is our home floor, but whenever we go out there, we're flat, we're not ready to play. I feel like that's on us. As far as everything else goes, we know we got to play hard, we got to execute, play defense and stay together."
That seems to be a theme for everyone in the locker room. Noah says he believes his teammates need to start trusting one other more and getting ready mentally for every game, not just the bigger ones.
"I think it's OK to be wrapped up in big wins," Noah said. "I think you're supposed to be happy after you win, but I think that when it's the big game we come ready to play. I think we have to make a conscious effort as players and as coaches -- everybody. I feel like we complain way too much. When things aren't going our way we have to find a way to stick together more.
"It's just too negative. We have to support one another when things aren't going well because right now it's just, when things aren't going our way, it's the end of the world. You have to move on to the next play and unite together because I don't feel like we're doing that right now."
Luol Deng says he believes the Bulls will fix what ails them in time. He knows they aren't playing up to their potential, but he believes they will turn things around soon.
"I think we play hard for each other," Deng said. "I think as a team we've just got to get better in things. We're winning big games, I think we trust each other, we just got to play hard in those type of games. Every team, if you go down the league, even the team with the best record, they have something that they're not good at or something that they need to improve. And I think that right now we need to tackle that. [At] the beginning of the year it was playing the whole 48 minutes; I think we're getting better at that, and now it's games like this we got to get up for."