CHICAGO -- Since he came to Chicago two and a half years ago, Tom Thibodeau has used one particular phrase more than any other during his tenure. Win or lose, good circumstances or bad, the veteran coach repeats the mantra.
"We have more than enough to win with."
Bulls fans know better these days. The Bulls don't have enough to consistently win on most nights. There are various reasons for this of course; Derrick Rose is out for the foreseeable future, the new reserves aren't as good as the old ones, the list could go on as the Bulls limp along in a season that has been littered with mediocrity through the first month.
But what caused the Bulls to struggle in Tuesday night's 80-76 loss to the Indiana Pacers may come as a surprise.
They miss Rip Hamilton. Badly.
For as much flak as the veteran shooter has taken since signing with the Bulls last December, and it has been a lot given that he's now missed 39 games over the last two seasons, his impact on this team's offense has been hard not to notice in a season without Rose. Without the former MVP on the floor, the Bulls ran a lot of sets through Hamilton and he was delivering most of the time, averaging 14 points a game. Even when he wasn't knocking down shots, his presence on the floor and his ability to find the open man opened up space for his teammates. Without him on Tuesday night, the Bulls' offense looked lost and had nowhere to turn late in the game.
"We just didn't make the shots," Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. "We got every shot that we wanted, each guy on our team, we just didn't make the shots."
There's no telling how many Hamilton would have made, but he couldn't have done much worse than the Bulls did on this night. Thibodeau's bunch shot just 38 percent from the field and turned the ball over 19 times. It was not the type of performance Thibodeau wanted to see from his team as they embark on a four-games-in-five-nights stretch without Hamilton.
"It usually comes down to too much one-on-one or making a risky pass and not being aware of what is going on," Thibodeau said of his team's turnovers. "If you're dancing with the ball and trying to thread the ball, that will lead to turnovers.”
Robinson tried to take responsibility for the loss given his poor decisions in the final few minutes, but it wasn’t his fault the Bulls lost. They lost because they don't have enough talent on the roster to overcome a 19-turnover performance. They lost because even though Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler played hard, neither one looks very comfortable on the offensive end. The Bulls lost because they faced a solid defensive team that shut them down and when they needed an answer they couldn't find one.
"I think everybody's got to play a little harder," Butler said of overcoming the loss of Hamilton. "Share the ball even more, guard, and try to cover up for him as best we can. Of course you can't, but we have to try."
That's the real problem for these Bulls this year. They can try as hard as they want, but on some nights it just won't make a difference. They don't have enough talent to overcome repeated mental mistakes and poor shooting. Without Rose and Hamilton on the floor there are going to be some nights when they just don't have enough to win.