CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau didn't try to sugarcoat how poorly his team's defense was on Friday night. He was disgusted by the fact his team gave up 112 points to Los Angeles Clippers, but what made him feel even worse was the fact the Chicago Bulls allowed Doc Rivers' team to shoot 53.9 percent from the field and hit 13 3-pointers.
"We didn't cover the way we should have," Thibodeau said. "Our pick-and-roll defense wasn't very good, our defensive transition wasn't very good, our 3-point defense wasn't very good. I don't think any aspect of our defense was very good."
For a team that prides itself on its defensive intensity, Friday's game was a wake-up call. The Bulls came in having won nine of their past 11 and walked out knowing they still have a lot of work to do. It was a mantra repeated throughout the quiet locker room after the game finally came to an end.
"We didn't come out with the right mindset defensively," Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy said. "We gave them a lot of 3s. We gave up 41 points in the first quarter and got off to a bad start there and were kind of playing catch-up the rest of the way."
The 41-point first quarter was a killer for Thibodeau's bunch, but the real issue for them is they allowed a talented Clippers team to push the tempo all night. Blake Griffin had his way down low and forced the issue offensively. The Bulls have been successful of late because they force teams to play their style. The problem for them is that when they play a better opponent, and an elite coach in Thibodeau's close friend, Doc Rivers, they can't make the mistakes they made and get away with them.
"I think we were passive," Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said. "I don't like the word soft, but I think we were a little bit of that, too. They got where they wanted to on the floor, got the shots that they wanted to get. We didn't make it too tough for them at all."
Butler's words summed up his team's performance nicely. It's not often a Thibodeau-coached team is accused of playing soft, but that was an apt description at various points for the Bulls. They didn't have the consistent fire that has come to define them over the years. It happens over the course of any season, but the Bulls are facing a tough West Coast trip, which starts next week, and will be squaring off against several teams, like the Clippers, that like to play fast and set the tempo. If the Bulls don't learn from their mistakes quickly, they're going to be in trouble again -- and they know it.
"You get humbled in this league real fast," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "When you're feeling good and you're proud about the things you're doing, somebody comes and smacks you to reality. We just got humbled, and we've got to move forward."