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Monday, March 3, 2014
Bulls fall flat in Brooklyn

By Nick Friedell

NEW YORK -- About an hour or so before tipoff Monday night, Tom Thibodeau opened a fridge full of beverages in the visitors' locker room inside Barclays Center and snatched a couple of Red Bulls. On the second night of a back-to-back set in the middle of a long NBA season, the veteran coach needed a jolt.

After watching his Chicago Bulls team play lifelessly throughout much of Monday night's disappointing 96-80 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, and turn the ball over 28 times in the process, Thibodeau probably wishes he had handed the energy drinks to all of his players.

"I thought we were flat tonight," Thibodeau said.

Now there's an understatement. Over the course of 82 regular-season games, there are going to be nights like the Bulls had Monday.

They stunk, and they knew it.

Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer had 10 points and 13 boards against the Nets -- but also five turnovers.
The jarring part of this game was how careless Chicago was with the ball. The Bulls set a record for turnovers in the Thibodeau era and did so just one day after setting a franchise mark by turning the ball over only three times against the New York Knicks. Even the players had a hard time believing they could play so poorly.

"How many turnovers did we have in that Knick game?" Bulls forward Taj Gibson asked the media after the game.

After he heard a few people call out, "Three," Gibson shook his head in disbelief.

"Man, too many," he said of Monday's 28 turnovers. "It seemed like every time we tried to make our normal pass, it was just getting deflected, bobbled, it was a frustrating night. We've just got to put it behind us."

Having come into this game winners of nine of their previous 10, including the past four in a row, that's exactly what the Bulls were trying to do as they headed out of the arena. They didn't feel as if the sky was falling -- they were just mad at themselves for not playing up to their usual level, especially after destroying the Knicks in a nationally televised game Sunday.

"I think the energy was a bit different," Gibson said. "No game in this league is easy, especially after the quick turnaround. But that team's been talking about how we mostly dominated them the last two games, so it's really going to be hard to play against a solid veteran team with All-Stars that used to play at their highest peak all the time. ... They had a lot of guys that had this game on their calendar."

Thibodeau hates making excuses, but he's been around the league long enough to know that every team has a few of these each season. Aside from the turnovers, what disappointed him most was the lack of physicality the Bulls played with on both ends.

"I thought [the Nets] were very aggressive," he said. "I think when that happens, you have to take the challenge and respond. And I think it's important to own your space, be strong with the ball, get them off you -- and that's what we didn't do. And that's what we've got to do."

The Bulls are confident they will do that again, and they're confident it will happen soon, but the joy from Sunday's victory faded quickly after such a poor showing.

"It was definitely a letdown," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "We didn't play well tonight. We played well [Sunday]. The highs and lows of the NBA, it's all part of the journey. We're disappointed. Playing in front of your family, playing in front of your friends -- you lay an egg, but you got to bounce back."