Fred Hoiberg: Bulls take a step back in loss to Hawks

ATLANTA -- Fred Hoiberg showed more emotion during his postgame news conference than his team did Friday throughout much of its 103-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

The first-year coach was frustrated with his team's lack of effort and showed with his answers the intensity and focus that his team did not put forth for much of the game. That Hoiberg's meeting with the media lasted less than two minutes was the most damning sign of all, in regard to just how bad the Bulls' night was.

"Right from the beginning, they outmuscled us," Hoiberg said. "They got second-chance opportunities pretty much every time down. We'd get an initial stop, [then] we couldn't get the ball. Ball movement was not good on the other end.

"I don't get it. We had three good games, we made a lot of progress, and we took a step back today."

The depleted Bulls were due for a clunker after rattling off three surprising wins. Winning games regularly without Derrick Rose (hamstring), Jimmy Butler (knee), Nikola Mirotic (hematoma removal) and Joakim Noah (shoulder) isn't plausible for any team, especially one that has been as inconsistent as this group has shown to be this season. Red Auerbach wouldn't be able to win many games with a team counting on Tony Snell, Cris Felicio, Aaron Brooks and Justin Holiday to play rotation minutes.

At the core of Hoiberg's frustration Friday was that his beleaguered group didn't show the mental toughness it had shown in those three wins. Despite the Bulls' cutting the Hawks' lead from 18 to eight in the third quarter, the game never felt that close.

When asked about his team's turnovers, Hoiberg rattled off the exact number with the kind of precision the Bulls have been missing against the Hawks all season.

"We had 21," Hoiberg said. "And that's what we've talked about for two days is taking care of the basketball. We'd averaged just over 20 against this team, and you just don't give yourself a chance to win when you have careless turnovers like that. It leads to transition baskets. You're taking the ball out of the net. I don't know ... too careless."

This game looked like many the Bulls have played this season. They came out and got knocked in the teeth early by a more aggressive team. Then, when things went downhill in the latter stages, the Bulls had no answers and folded for the night.

At the moment, the only bright spot for Hoiberg is that second-year shooter Doug McDermott continues the best stretch of his career. McDermott scored 20 points against the Hawks and has had four solid games in a row. He is playing with the type of confidence that has been missing from his game since he was drafted. But even as his personal highs keep coming, McDermott said it's not as enjoyable when his team is playing so poorly.

"That's kind of what's got us in trouble the last couple times we've played them is turnovers," McDermott said. "They scored 27 off of them, so that's the key to the game right there."

The Bulls have allowed 100-plus points in 12 straight games, which is tied for their longest such streak in the past 30 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The most recent time the Bulls had a 12-game stretch such as this was in the 2009-10 season. They'll try to break out of the defensive funk Saturday against a Portland Trail Blazers squad that has played some of its best basketball of late. Veteran Taj Gibson remains confident that his team can get things back on track once his teammates get healthy, but he knows how upset his new coach was with Friday's effort.

"Disappointed in how the energy [was missing], knowing that that's another team we're jockeying for playoff positioning against," Gibson said of Hoiberg's message. "That's another team that relatively gave us fits the last two games. But we've taken what he says, we understand that it was a letdown tonight. We've got another one [Saturday]. We've just got to bounce back."