Joakim Noah yelled for Aaron Brooks to locate him wide open off an inbounds pass but all looked to be well once Taj Gibson had an easy floater inside, and an easier tip in.
But both shots went awry as the Brooklyn Nets danced downcourt after the ball bounced out of bounds.
After all the feel-good rhetoric of Monday morning made everyone believe an easy win over the Eastern Conference’s second-worst team was upcoming, the Bulls’ most recent history and bad habits suggested otherwise.
They played with fire at home yet again and got burned, this time a 105-102 loss at the United Center for their third straight loss.
“It’s a bad, bad loss,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, in the understatement of the night.
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Suddenly the four-game winning streak looks worlds away and what’s worse, they could be without Joakim Noah for a considerable amount of time after he hurt his left shoulder reaching in on an Andrea Bargnani shot in the third quarter.
What’s more, the issue isn’t about offense or pace or embracing Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls were bullied on their home floor by a team that didn’t seem intent on winning, but the more the night went on the more confident the woeful Brooklyn Nets became.
“It was defense. We had no togetherness at all,” Hoiberg said. “We had no toughness. When we finally did get some stops they would get the rebound.”
The Nets grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, including nine from Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. Without Noah on the floor, the Nets feasted on the glass late, even after the Bulls rebounded from an 81-69 deficit midway through the third quarter.
The energy was great when he was on the floor but without him it seemed non-existent, as the Bulls only led one time during the evening, late in the second quarter when they woke up and made a run.
But they went back to the snooze button soon as halftime ended, allowing the Nets to dictate tempo and barely put any pressure on the visitors defensively on the way to giving up more than 100 points for the 11th time, and they’re 1-10 in such matters.
“The biggest thing was we would help and we wouldn’t be there for the next guy,” Hoiberg said. “We were good at that for awhile. We’ll get back to it tomorrow and make improvements. If not it could get ugly, Oklahoma City on Christmas.”
Jimmy Butler scored 24 and Pau Gasol 20, as the former made biting comments following Saturday night’s loss in New York to the Knicks about needing to be coached harder.
“We were missing a lot of parts of the game tonight,” Gasol said. “A sense of urgency. We cruised for most of the game. That’s when we have our back against the wall, we turn it up and try to give ourselves a chance. But sometimes it’s too late.”
Apparently, they’re in need of plenty of things across the board as the energy lacked and they couldn’t put together quality possessions even as the Nets tried to donate them the ballgame.
The Nets grabbed six offensive rebounds in the fourth after shooting 25 percent, making just six field goals, clearly leaving the door open for a comeback. The Bulls only scored four more points in the fourth, with Butler scoring 10.
Derrick Rose scored eight with five assists on just three of 11 shooting, and Taj Gibson scored 10 with nine rebounds and four assists.
The lineup change putting Nikola Mirotic at small forward in place of Tony Snell in order to free up time for rookie Bobby Portis had mixed results as Portis scored 11 with five rebounds while Mirotic again struggled to find a rhythm offensively, unable to hit open shots with the floor spread.
But Mirotic’s struggles only mirror the Bulls’ overall issues at this point, as the team tumbles closer and closer to the .500 mark as we get closer to the new year