WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nate Robinson has his own interesting theory as to why the Bulls' offense can look so good one night and so bad the next.
"This ain't Pleasantville," he said after the Bulls' ugly-looking 86-73 loss to the Washington Wizards Saturday night. "We can't make every shot. We didn't make our shots ... tonight they wanted it, they wanted it more than us. We dug a hole and we tried to dig ourselves out, but it was too late."
That's a good way to sum up how poorly the Bulls played throughout most of the game, especially the second half. After a Kirk Hinrich layup with 7:49 left in the third quarter, the Bulls did not register another field goal in the rest of the frame. They had no rhythm offensively and looked lethargic playing on the second night of a back-to-back. After playing well in an impressive win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night, the Bulls fell back to earth on Saturday by playing without the edge and intensity coach Tom Thibodeau is always preaching about.
"I think we got beat by a team that just played harder than us tonight," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "They played really well. You've got to give credit when credit is due. I feel like we fought hard at the end, but I think we played tired basketball tonight."
That's an excuse Thibodeau doesn't want to hear, though. Thibodeau has a no-nonsense approach that he wants his team to take to heart, but they didn't do that against the Wizards. They were beat to the punch and allowed Washington to have its way late in the game. The Wizards outscored the Bulls 48-26 in the paint, one of many stats that displeased Thibodeau and his players.
"You can't allow frustration or whatever [enters your mind]," Thibodeau said. "You have to get the job done. Whatever you're being asked to do, it's a five-man offense, five-man defense. When you start taking shortcuts, the results aren't going to be good. So then everything is random so nobody knows what the other guy is doing, and then you're going to end up with low-percentage shots. Your defense is going to break down, you're going to have poor floor balance, you're going to give them easy baskets in transition. It's very difficult to win that way on the road."
It's hard to win anywhere playing the way the Bulls did Saturday night. The bigger issue is that once again they let a bad team dominate them in a game they thought they could win. Granted, the Wizards have been playing better lately, but the Bulls still didn't rise to the challenge -- a fact lost on nobody in Thibodeau's locker room.
"When we play against good teams, we really execute, really pay attention to detail," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said. "Really do a lot of things to win basketball games, swing the ball and stuff like that. When we play against teams that's under .500, I think we kind of get away from that a little bit, thinking that we're just going to show up and win. I think we just got to get better with that. Hopefully it just doesn't bite us in the ass, but we have to get better with that."
No matter how many times Thibodeau barks out orders, Hamilton believes they have to take responsibility for their own play and execute better against weaker opponents.
"It's within," Hamilton said. "It's a long season, so you got to find different ways to motivate yourself. Some games you're going to have it and some games you're not. It's just that you've got to kind of trick yourself sometimes to get up for these games -- back-to-backs, get in late -- you got to kind of trick yourself to get up for them."
The joke was on the Bulls on Saturday night. The only thing they tricked themselves into was another loss against a bad team.