Defensive letdown costs Bulls vs. Pacers

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
11:13
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Thibodeau had a simple explanation why his Chicago Bulls suffered a 111-101 loss to the Indiana Pacers Monday.

The veteran coach, disgusted that his team couldn't make a defensive stop most of the night, was as concise as he could be in trying to address the night's biggest issue.

"We got to play better defense," he said.

[+] EnlargeDavid West
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/ Getty ImagesDavid West scored 20 points for the Pacers in their win over the Bulls Monday.
After tying an NBA record by winning 41 straight games when scoring at least 100 points, the Bulls failed to make stops when they needed them against the Pacers. They struggled to slow down David West, George Hill and Paul George, who combined for 72 points, and they couldn't knock down a big shot when they needed one.

It's the type of night that Thibodeau and his team would love to forget. They don't want to use the fact that they were playing without Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich as an excuse, because they've already proven that they can win without all of them this season. The defense just wasn't good Monday night and Thibodeau knows it.

"Any time you make a committment in one area you're giving something up in another," Thibodeau said. "You have to decide what gives you your best chance of winning. So as the game is unfolding, we started in a big hole, so we had to get out of that hole. So now you're scrambling from there and trying to give yourself a chance. I thought we were in position with five minutes to go that we thought we could win the game. We have to expect better, but we didn't get it done."

Why couldn't they get it done defensively after playing so well in that area all season?

"Like coach said, sometimes guys get hot," Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. "No excuses, they just flat out beat us. They made shots tonight. You have Lance Stephenson step back and making threes. Seriously, come on? Not taking nothing from his game, but that's not his game. They made some big-time shots at the end, tough shots over guys playing great defense. We got to live with it. But we got to move on and get ready for our next game."

The Pacers shot a robust 52.7 percent from the field -- a fact that the Bulls still couldn't believe after the contest was over.

"Early in the game it seemed like they couldn't miss," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "We were contesting a lot of shots but they had a lot of guys that got hot and you're going to have nights like that when guys are making tough shots but you try to keep playing. Our defense kind of let down a little bit, but we had a shot in the fourth quarter. We had a real easy shot, we just didn't come up with it."

Now the Bulls must head back out west to face a tough two-game stretch with the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. Thibodeau is hoping his team will remember the way it played against the Pacers and build from that.

"You just got to learn," he said. "You learn from every situation. You're on the road against a quality opponent and you want to be in position to win. There's a lot that goes into winning. When you rely on making it strictly an offensive game where you're trading baskets, now you're reducing your chances because if you hit a tough stretch, now you're in trouble."

Thibodeau knows that in order to build a new streak his team must stay out of that kind of situation.

"So if you defend and you rebound and you take care of the ball and you play inside out and you share the ball, there's a lot of discipline that's required to do that," he continued. "And a lot of effort that's required to do that. But you have to be a well-balanced team. With that being said, I still think over the course of the season you have to win a lot of different ways. I did like that we fought back. You have to figure out what you can do to give yourself a chance in the end. I thought our guys did that. Of course we're disappointed with the way we finished, but it's still a very winnable game."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
20.5 3.3 1.8 39.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.6
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.8
BlocksP. Gasol 2.1