CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls would love to find some consistency on offense. But Monday night's 101-95 defeat to the Boston Celtics was caused by the loss of the biggest part of their identity -- the rock solid defense they have played under coach Tom Thibodeau since he came over from Boston.
The Celtics’ offense blistered the Bulls for most of the night, shooting 51 percent from the field and snapping a 15-game streak in which the Bulls had held teams under 100 points.
"It was bad. It was really bad," Luol Deng said of the Bulls’ defense on Monday. "They shot a high percentage the whole game. The (pregame) talk was about scoring, but we're a defensive team. That's what gets us going, that's what wins us games. And we got to do that."
That is the biggest red flag for the Bulls going forward. Obviously, with Rajon Rondo at the helm, Boston is one of the better teams in the league. He proved that again on Monday when he almost recorded a triple double, finishing with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, in torching Nate Robinson and the Bulls' defense.
But the Bulls seemed to be so preoccupied with trying to find offense that they forgot to lock down on the defensive end. They played catch-up the whole night and ended up getting burned in the end.
"It was just too cordial," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "We were giving up too many easy baskets. We gave them a lot of confidence early. It's hard to shut off a faucet like that, especially with a great team in the Celtics, where they hit shots, they're a jump shooting team. We just kept fighting but at the end of the game it was kind of hard to cool that down."
Those were Thibodeau's thoughts as well. He knew his team dug too deep of a hole to escape.
"When you give them confidence, they are hard to stop," Thibodeau said. "Our bench guys got it down to three, but early in the game our rebounding was poor and our defense was poor, and that gave them the big lead."
The problem for the Bulls is that this is becoming more of a trend than Thibodeau would like. While his defense hasn't played this poorly in a while, the offense hasn't exactly been churning out points this season. Without Derrick Rose on the floor, the Bulls have looked lost offensively at times. This struggle has put even more pressure on the defense to produce. When it doesn't -- the Bulls don't win.
"We gave ourselves a good chance, one or two possessions away from taking over this game," Gibson said. "It's just like the OKC game. We felt that we were in the hunt, but it hurts because you're one or two possessions from taking over the lead and we were getting up great looks at the basket, we just couldn't get it in the hole."
That's exactly what Boston did. When they had to make a big shot, they made one. The Bulls don't have that luxury anymore. Against elite level competition they have to play a nearly flawless game. When that doesn't happen they lose games like they did on Monday night. With or without Rose, the margin of error for this team is gone when it does not play defense the way Thibodeau demands and everyone in the locker room knows it.
"They hit some shots," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "When Rondo gets in the paint like that it's hard to, especially with the shooting that they have, they're tough to guard. But we're definitely capable of better."