- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Derrick Rose looked like a mummy in the subdued postgame locker room Wednesday night after the Bulls' 106-95 season-opening loss to the Thunder. His body was covered in ice bags. He had one on each knee and one on each hand, and he was soaking his feet in a huge tub of freezing-cold slush.
In many ways, a dejected Rose sitting in front of his locker signified the way the Bulls' night unraveled at the end. After playing so well for three quarters and hanging tough in a rowdy environment, Rose & Co. could barely do anything right in the fourth. They were frozen in their tracks, much like the 22-year-old point guard was after the game.
"We were blowing sets, all of us," Rose said, a white towel draped over his head.
The Bulls and Thunder went into the fourth quarter tied at 82, but things deteriorated rapidly for Tom Thibodeau's bunch. The team looked discombobulated and rushed shot after shot, while Rose, who spent much of the second half in foul trouble, couldn't find the rhythm and energy he had injected into his team during the first quarter and a half of play.
"Not being in the right spot, not taking time," Rose continued. "But we can easily fix that. I never want to get in a situation where people have to force shots, including myself, when the shot clock is down, just forcing shots and getting turnovers."
It was easy for anyone watching to see that the Bulls simply wilted under the bright lights of the fourth quarter. They were outscored 24-13 and couldn't get back on track before it was too late.
"I didn't like our pace in the fourth quarter," Thibodeau said. "I thought we had good pace for the first three quarters and then I thought we slowed down, and then our execution, you've got to cut harder, you've got to screen better. You've got to make quicker decisions in the fourth quarter, and I didn't think we did that."
That's the message Thibodeau delivered to his team after the game, and that is the point of emphasis his players are intent on improving upon in the coming weeks.
"We definitely have to become stronger down the stretch," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Coach has always emphasized the fourth quarter being very different than the other three. We just got to do a better job of coming together when it hits the fan."
While there is no doubt that Thibodeau's point has merit, the Bulls' biggest issue might be that the team still has no other consistent offensive option aside from Rose. When he couldn't find his shot -- he ended up taking 31 of them Wednesday -- and the offense sputtered, nobody else stepped up and helped him with that offensive burden. The Bulls seemed willing to stand around and let Rose create on his own. Both Noah (18 points, 19 rebounds) and Taj Gibson (16 points, 11 rebounds) had great games, but neither will be able to create the kinds of shots Rose can. Until Carlos Boozer returns to the lineup and the Bulls have another legitimate scoring threat in the post, Thibodeau's biggest issue isn't just finding a way for his team to play better in the fourth; it's figuring out who else besides Rose will pick up the slack if and when the Bulls don't.
Line of the night: "We can't gift them points," Thibodeau said. "They were 38-for-47, 81 percent from the line. You can't gift them points. There were times we just bailed them out reaching, and we want to move our feet and play good body position defense. We can do better ... and we will."
Thibodeau was discussing the free throw discrepancy Wednesday. The Thunder had 47 attempts. The Bulls had just 22.