CHICAGO -- The silence in the Chicago Bulls locker room was deafening.
Joakim Noah sat on one side of the room with an ice pack on each knee just staring into space. Luol Deng sat a few stalls over with his feet in ice and a big ice bag on his wrist, just pondering the past 48 minutes. Rip Hamilton sat in his seat with a huge ice pack on his shoulder. The players wore an expression of fatigue and frustration.
For the first time in almost 14 months, the Bulls dropped back-to-back games, and the players struggled to wrap their minds around what has gone so badly in the past two contests.
"We got to get back to the way we play," Deng said. "Just find ways to win. We're not doing that right now."
What's missing, though? The Bulls got smoked by a very talented Oklahoma City team on Sunday, but they followed that up by folding down the stretch against the Houston Rockets. After continuously finding a way to win without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have lost the fortitude that pushed them past all the bumps in the road this season. The players all said they needed to look at tape to see what was wrong, but Kyle Korver had an idea as to what the problem is.
"An edge," Korver said. "I thought we played a really great second quarter on both ends and then didn't finish it off well. Then the third quarter, we came out and we just didn't have it. We were flat, we didn't have the same life that we had and then we finished it up with a really bad fourth quarter."
Tom Thibodeau admitted he was disappointed in the way his team has been playing, but Carlos Boozer doesn't sound concerned that things are as bad as the veteran coach made them sound.
"I don't think we let go of the rope," Boozer said. "Any time you lose two in a row, questions creep in. Look, the only way we're going to get out of it is us. We fix it ourselves. We put ourselves [in position for] this great season and we're going to finish it with a great season."
That's the issue for the Bulls. It's been so long since they lost two in a row that no one is sure how they'll respond. Obviously, having Rose would help ease concerns that the Bulls are headed in the wrong direction with just a few weeks left in the regular season, but the truth is that Thibodeau's concerns are warranted. There have been too many stretches over the past few weeks when his team looks flat ... and he knows it. So do his players. They believe they can fix what's going on, but the frustration they're enduring is palpable.
"It's correctable, man," Korver said. "Obviously, it's frustrating, you want to play better, you want to play well every night. I think we lost two games in a row for the first time in I don't know how long. Obviously, we don't want that to happen and there's some things we need to correct, but we've still got 11 games left and the playoffs. It was nice to have Rip back tonight. Hopefully Derrick comes back soon and we'll peak towards the end."
The last word part I: Boozer, on losing back-to-back games for the first time in 86 contests.
"We're not going to think too much about it. We're just going to move on to the next one."
The last word part II: Deng, on playing without Rose: "We've got enough guys in here to win, we've proven that. We've got guys that can play; guys have stepped up all year. Teams are going through the same schedule as us, so it's not that."