Frustrating Hawks loss lingers for Bulls

ORLANDO -- A full day after his team's biggest meltdown of the season, Joakim Noah still couldn't believe just how poorly his team played the final 24 minutes of his team's 83-80 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

"Just embarrassing," he said. "Sometimes you think you're playing hard, but you're really not. When you see it on film, there's no lying in the tape and just disappointing."

Noah and his teammates endured both a film session and a practice session on Thursday, and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau hopes that both will help the team get back on track Friday night in another big game against the Orlando Magic.

"When we looked at the film we saw at the end of the first half, we were loose with the lead," Thibodeau said. "Careless at both ends, and it gave [Atlanta] hope. So we didn't end the first half well, and then we started the third quarter poorly and when you're up 17 they had the first run, cut it to 10 or 12, and now there's hope that they can win. We fought an uphill battle and we played low energy, and we allowed our offense to impact our defense. And that being said, we still have a five-point lead with three and a half minutes to go, and we didn't do the things that were necessary to win at the end."

Noah agreed.

"Just our toughness and things we should have done better," the frustrated center said. "We kind of let down. We were too loose."

Thibodeau tried to impart to his team that it couldn't fall into the same trap against the Magic, despite the fact that the Magic square off against the Miami Heat on Thursday night while the Bulls enjoy a night off.

"I don't know if it does [help]," Thibodeau said of facing off against a team that plays the night before. "Because at this time of the year, I think you're beyond the dog days. You look at the final 20, and you have a lot of teams that are going head-to-head now. So it's so important to each team for positioning that they'll be ready to play. And if we go in and we're thinking that because they're playing tonight and that's an advantage, that's the wrong thinking. We've got to come out ready to play because of who they are. And I think readiness to play is huge in this league.

"The first quarter's critical. They're a quality team, and I think a lot of people may be overlooking Orlando. They made a big trade during the year, and I think at the end they have as much as anybody. They have a dominant center, and any time you have a dominant player you're in business."

What to do with Howard? Magic center Dwight Howard has given the Bulls problems in recent years, and Noah knows that squaring off against the All-Star big man poses a different challenge than almost anyone else in the league.

"Just try to match his energy," Noah said of the matchup. "He's definitely a specimen out there. Just do our best to try and eliminate all his easy baskets around the basket. It's easier said than done, obviously. But that's definitely the plan."

The last word:

"Keep shooting, that's the only way I see it. Me not shooting, that plays in their hands, so as long as I keep taking those shots, they've got to fall one day," -- Rose, on his recent shooting woes. He's just 36-for-103 in his past five games from the floor.