DENVER -- It's a good thing Tom Thibodeau doesn't have a lot of hair, because he would have pulled it all out after watching his team get smoked 128-96 by the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
After hanging with the Nuggets for most of the first half, the Chicago Bulls got beat in every way possible during the final 24 minutes ... and it made the veteran coach absolutely furious.
"What we have to do to win is defend, rebound, keep our turnovers down," Thibodeau said. "[Be] inside-out and share the ball. When we start making it up, we start taking shortcuts. We're going to get our ass kicked, that's what it's going to be.
“It's not the way to win in this league. We're kidding ourselves. Just kidding ourselves."
What disgusted Thibodeau more than anything is the way his squad got run over in the third quarter. The Bulls were outscored 37-16 and looked lifeless against a talented Nuggets team that did whatever they wanted on the floor. Thibodeau got so frustrated that he called little-used backup Vladimir Radmanovic into the game for Luol Deng before the quarter had ended.
"We didn't play well defensively," said Bulls center Joakim Noah. "We didn't play well offensively. They beat us down the court every time. Just an embarrassing loss."
The embarrassment was evident on the look of the Bulls' players. They have had some bad losses this season, but they haven't been dominated quite the way they were in the third quarter at Pepsi Center. They couldn't get any kind of offensive rhythm going and couldn't slow down the Nuggets at all.
Everything seemed to go bad at once.
"Tonight I just think we just didn't trust ourselves," said Bulls forward Taj Gibson. "We didn't follow the game plan.
"We just got to do better."
That's the problem for the Bulls over their last two outings: The vaunted defense that has propelled them throughout the season has been crushed. They've given up 239 points during the pair of losses to the Nuggets and the Indiana Pacers.
"Until we change [the defense], the result's not going to be good," Thibodeau said. "We're trying to make it an offensive game and the ball's going wherever they want the ball to go. We're not containing the ball, not keeping it out of the paint, not challenging shots, not rebounding the ball. It's very difficult to win like that."
The players know that and that's why they are wondering how they are going to change things around. The Bulls have three tough games coming up as they head into the All-Star break --against the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. If they don't start playing better defense soon there is a good chance the Bulls will go into the break on a five-game losing streak. There isn't a sense among Thibodeau's players that the sky is falling, but they understand that if they don't turn things around quickly all the momentum they built up through most of the early season will fly out the window.
"I don't think coach is the only one that's hot right now," Noah said. "Everybody's hot."
The Bulls better put that anger and frustration to good use soon or else Thibodeau may go berserk.