CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah's only quote of the night, repeated almost identically after two different questions, summed up the Chicago Bulls' performance nicely in Saturday’s brutal 92-75 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
"We sucked," Noah said. "And we'll do better the next game."
The problem for Noah and the Bulls is that it's hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel after a game like this one.
Aside from Taj Gibson, the Bulls' starting five stunk. Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich, Tony Snell and Noah combined to go just 9-for-45 from the field. It appears as if the injuries that have come to define the Bulls' season to date are just too much to overcome right now. Playing without Derrick Rose (knee) and Jimmy Butler (turf toe) was tough enough, but losing Luol Deng to an Achilles injury appears to be the final straw for the Bulls.
They played the Pistons even in the first half, then played with no passion or fire in the last 24 minutes. Their defense wasn't tight and they didn't run the kind of solid sets that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau always barks about.
"There's a different story every night," Bulls guard Mike Dunleavy said of his team's struggling offense. "But tonight I just thought we had some good looks that we missed. We took care of the basketball. We didn't have too many turnovers. And the difference was the 3 pointers. They made theirs; we missed ours. We had some great looks and we'll take those every time. Next time hopefully they go down."
The Bulls had plenty of looks. They just don't have enough consistent talent on the floor to make them game after game.
For all the bluster from Noah and his teammates regarding the fact that a win over the Miami Heat on Thursday night was a turning point in their season, the Bulls regressed again on Saturday and couldn't fight through their own mistakes.
For as much mental toughness as the Bulls have shown over the past three seasons under Thibodeau, the injuries this season are finally breaking this team mentally.
Their veteran coach can talk all he wants about the Bulls having "more than enough" to win, as he said again after Saturday's loss. But the reality for the Bulls is that the players know better. They know unless they play a perfect game on most nights they aren't going to have a very good chance to win.
Energy and effort can only take a team so far in the NBA, as the Bulls have learned at various points over the past two seasons. Talent almost always wins out in this league, and the Bulls are finding that out the hard way this season. There are going to be some nights when they just don't have enough to win.
"We got a lot of guys out, a lot of guys hurt," Gibson said. "And it's real frustrating, because you never really get a chance to get a rhythm because there's always one guy banged up from the night before so it's tough but we just got to keep pushing."