"We just played like [expletive] tonight, man," Boozer said in an almost empty Bulls' locker room.
He was absolutely right. Playing without Derrick Rose (back) and Rip Hamilton (thigh/groin) once again, the Bulls played arguably their worst game of the season. They were awful on almost every level. The starters gave the Bulls no boost from the start, allowing the Nets to get out to a 22-3 start. The Bulls defense was brutal in the first half, allowing the Nets to shoot 50 percent from the field. And the Bulls offense was just as bad most of the day, considering they ran sets with no rhythm and looked completely out of sync.
Nets guard Deron Williams drives the lane between the Bulls' Ronnie Brewer, left, and Carlos Boozer.
"We weren't ready to play," Boozer said. "We gave them too many shots early. Our defense wasn't very good."
While plenty of people were willing to take the blame for the Bulls' struggles, head coach Tom Thibodeau attempted to take the bullet for his team on this day, blaming himself for the way his team played. Thibodeau doesn't subscribe to the theory, at least publicly, that teams have a few bad games like this each year. He expects more out of his team -- and he obviously expects more out of himself.
"If you believe in preparing for each and every game, you should be ready to go," Thibodeau said. "You can deal with a tough, hard-fought game where they make a shot at the end. But to dig a hole like we did is disappointing. That is more my responsibility to make sure we are ready."
His players didn't want their coach to take all the blame, though. Bulls center Joakim Noah, who didn't score in 21 minutes of play, said he was disappointed in himself for the way he played. He wasn't alone. Given the high standards the Bulls' players have set for themselves under Thibodeau, even they couldn't believe how poorly they played against an awful Nets team.
"I think that we didn't play with a lot of energy tonight," Noah said. "We just couldn't make a run when we needed it."
When they needed to hit a shot, they missed. When they needed to make a stop, the Nets found a way to score. The Bulls simply had no answers and no energy ... a bad combination when a team is already playing without its superstar point guard.
"We got to get better," Bulls guard Mike James said. "This is something that can't be tolerated. This is something that's unacceptable. Especially for what we're trying to prove this year. Especially [what] we're trying to do. If we're considering ourselves as a championship team, well this wasn't championship team basketball tonight."
As poorly as the Bulls played, no one was moping around the locker room as if the world was coming to an end. Sure, the players were frustrated, but the truth is that over the course of an NBA season, especially a condensed one like this one, every team is going to have a few games that look like this.
"We had a bad day," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "We're not denying that. We got no excuses. We played terrible. We didn't play well. But it's over with. We're going to look at it, try to get better, but just bounce back the next game ... we've got to bring a better effort."