CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Chicago Bulls may not be in midseason form, but Tom Thibodeau is.
The veteran coach blistered his team after watching the Bulls sleepwalk through a lackluster first half in Friday night's 86-83 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Assembly Hall.
"We didn't get any better today," Thibodeau bluntly stated after the game.
What irked the fiery coach more than anything was the way his team started the game. The starters, who played very well at times in Tuesday's exhibition opener against the Memphis Grizzlies, were listless in the first 24 minutes. The Bulls clawed their way back into the game in the second half, but it didn't matter. Thibodeau was still fuming with the way his team played.
"The tone of the game was set by the starters," he said. "Readiness to play? Not good. Execution? Not good. Taking care of the ball? We beat ourselves is what we did."
For a man who also preaches to his squad about being a "48-minute team," Thibodeau understands that his players have to do a better job of preparing themselves to play. He noted that he saw this performance coming given the way the Bulls practiced Thursday afternoon.
"I thought the defense was very poor, I thought the offense was very poor," Thibodeau said. "There's going to be nights when we don't shoot the ball as well as other nights and we have to be able to count on our defense. The defense and the rebounding has to be strong every night. If we do that and take care of the ball, we'll be in position to win. But we started off the game, the ball was going wherever they wanted it to go."
Thibodeau's frustration was not lost on his players. They knew they hadn't played up to the level he set for them and they understand they have a lot of work to do.
"I don't think we competed from start to finish," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said. "We took some quick shots. We just didn't have a good flow to our offense, and defensively they were kind of picking us apart. So we just got to do much better."
Bulls center Joakim Noah says he believes the Bulls lacked "urgency," and several players talked about the need to be more consistent, but the sky wasn't falling in the locker room. While they clearly weren't as upset as their coach, they know that they still have a few weeks to work out the kinks before the regular season starts.
"Some games are like that," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "This is the NBA. We didn't come out with the intensity that we needed to have to have a great start. But you saw the third quarter, we flipped it right away. And that's something for us to be aware of and hopefully we won't make the same mistake twice."
Thibodeau is hoping for the same. The best news for him is that the Bulls play the second half of a back-to-back Saturday night in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves. They have a chance to fix their mistakes -- but that doesn't mean he'll forget about this game any time soon.
"It's typical," he said. "We're in a big, big hole. We come out, scramble, dig out of the hole, but it was such a big hole. We couldn't overcome it. The only thing (is) we competed in the third quarter. The thing is, you got to do that for 48 minutes in this league. So we can't pick and choose when we're going to compete and execute and do the things that we're supposed to do. We got a long way to go."