Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago Bulls [Print without images]

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Bad turns to worse for reeling Bulls

By Nick Friedell

CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Bulls' 120-97 loss to the Houston Rockets were to be summed up by a Christmas song, only one would be necessary.

“Silent Night.”

Rest assured, Bulls fans, Tom Thibodeau will not sleep in heavenly peace Tuesday night. For the second consecutive game his team was awful. For the second consecutive game Thibodeau's defense-first mentality got ripped to shreds by a team playing with more energy and dictating the tempo. After the Bulls' Christmas nightmare ended, Thibodeau tried to both take the blame and explain how things have gone so bad for his team so quickly.

"(We were) completely outplayed right from the start. My job is to have them ready and obviously we were not ready so that part's on me … the thing is we had a bad fourth quarter in New York, we had a bad performance in Atlanta, and we followed it up today. So things can change very quickly in this league. If you're not right and ready and you don't have an edge, you're not going to win without playing with the right amount of intensity."

Tom Thibodeau
The Bulls are playing some of their worst basketball of the Tom Thibodeau era.
Thibodeau will earn more respect in the locker room for trying to take the fall, but the truth is the Bulls players need to look at themselves in the mirror. After playing so well for the first three quarters of the biggest win of the year Friday night in Madison Square Garden, Joakim Noah and his teammates have not played with much life and they know it.

"I don't think we've been playing with a lot of energy," Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. "We play hard, but playing hard and playing smart is two totally different things."

Robinson is accurate in that assessment. The Bulls have stopped doing the things that made many league pundits feel as if Thibodeau's team had turned the proverbial corner. Aside from the obvious energy discrepancy, the Bulls have not been playing defense well and are getting outworked on the blocks. That was evident Tuesday night, considering the Rockets outscored the Bulls 66-32 in the paint.

What surely makes Tuesday’s rout even more disappointing for the Bulls is the fact that Omer Asik was the man responsible for most of the damage down low. The former Bull had 20 points and 18 rebounds and outmuscled his former teammates. Thibodeau can take all the blame he wants, but the reality is that if the Bulls don't hustle more and shoot better (Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich combined to go 10-for-33 from the field) the Bulls are going to slide right back to the .500 mark. Thibodeau isn't the reason the Bulls have getting outworked and can't hit shots.

"It's on us," Robinson said. "It has nothing to do with coach. Coach does a great job of preparing us and getting us ready for the games. It's all on us so we're not going to let him take the blame on that and we got to do better (Wednesday) and we will."

It's hard to believe that after how poorly the Bulls have performed the last few nights. This was one of the worst performances of the Thibodeau era, and bookended the worst performance of the season. The Bulls' Christmas was brutal to watch and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

"Our defense wasn't really good today," Noah said. "Everything was bad. Terrible Christmas. We didn't play with the right edge. Just a real disappointing loss."