It was no wonder the Bulls were no match for the Miami Heat Friday night, in a game that was supposed to be a rousing response from a team that usually responds on the occasion when its back is to the wall.
The 100-88 final score at the United Center wasn't as close as the score indicated, as the telling faces in the aftermath of the game said more in a handful of minutes than anything that's been said or expressed over the past 48 hours.
And with a stretch of games on the west coast that will nearly carry the Bulls to the All-Star break, this is as critical a time as they've had in years.
Fred Hoiberg's stressed out look, complete with more exasperation than usual.
Dwyane Wade's short but respectful responses to the media after a six for 17 performance against his former team—coming off the bench in a disciplinary move from Hoiberg that seemed to backfire.
Jimmy Butler's smile only belied his one for 13 night, one of the worst outings of his career, a game where nothing seemed to work for him after joining Wade on the pine for the first half of the first quarter.
When asked if the benching was fair, Butler said: "Sure. That's on them. It's not my job to worry about what's fair. It's my job to hoop."
He didn't look into it and his usual determination and stubbornness only showed up in spurts during his 33 minutes.
"Disengaged? Nah. It was a little different. I was still into it," Butler said. "Still knew what I was supposed to be doing. Took the shots I take. That's fine. Just gotta be better."
Butler was a team-worst minus-23, one game after scoring 40 against the Hawks and nearly carrying the Bulls back to .500.
"I hope what happened has long-term benefits for our team," Hoiberg said, sound like a man who has to believe that rather than a coach who is resolute in his methods and message to his team.
Calling it the worst performance of the season, one would think it was hyperbole when factoring in a couple stinkers to the Bucks on back-to-back nights last month, but the lifeless way the Bulls came out didn't compare to the mere matchup problem posed by the Bucks.
Even the Heat being a team that's won five straight couldn't explain how exhausted the Bulls looked—but the drama since Wednesday night's game filled in the blanks.
"It's…something where we gotta get back together, we gotta work," Hoiberg said. "We gotta regroup, we gotta find a way to come together. Huge game. We gotta find a way to get back together and put this one behind us and hopefully stay together as a team going forward."
They looked like a team coming apart at the seams as Goran Dragic dissected the Bulls with precision and the Bulls didn't have much of a counter, after a tumultuous 48-hour period.
Dragic scored 26 points with 11 assists and five rebounds while Willie Reed scored 20 on nine of 11 shooting as the Heat shot 46 percent from the field, forced 20 turnovers and led by as much as 20.
But this was much more about the Bulls than Heat, starting with Hoiberg's decision to bench Butler and Wade for their comments Wednesday night—sitting them for the first half of the first quarter.
It didn't produce the desired effect, and although Paul Zipser and Rajon Rondo played well with increased playing time, with Ziper scoring a career-high 14 in 27 minutes, starting in Butler's place, it rang hollow.
"I don't think that had an impact," said Hoiberg about the benching producing something negative. "It has been an emotional 48 hours, no doubt about that. A lot of guys talked about not sleeping last two days, thinking about what's going on with our team."
The Bulls only committed 12 fouls on the night, barely close enough to get back on defense as the Heat got whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted, however it wanted.
"I don't think that was our worst game of the season," Butler said. "It was another loss at home. Correct it tomorrow and get ready for (Philadelphia) on Sunday."
One would've expected a rousing response, but like everything else in the past few days, it was unpredictable, a struggle and quite ugly.
And the Bulls must regroup before going out west because this has potential to get uglier in no time.