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Frustration sets in for Bulls, coach Tom Thibodeau

OklahomCity Thunder's Nick Collisleft Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah right fight for loose ball during third quarter NBA basketball game OklahomCity

Oklahoma City Thunder's Nick Collison, left, and Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah, right, fight for a loose ball during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. Oklahoma City won 102-72. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

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TONIGHT

CAVALIERS
AT BULLs

The facts: 7, CSN, 1000-AM.

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Updated: March 27, 2013 6:19AM



Perspective never made it back into the Bulls’ locker room on Sunday night.

It seldom does after a 30-point road loss.

That’s why when head coach Tom Thibodeau was asked which aspect of his team was he most disappointed with in the wake of the 102-72 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, there was little hesitation in his reply.

“Everything,’’ Thibodeau answered.

It was as frustrated as the third-year coach had looked since taking over that seat before the 2010-11 season, but then again, Thibodeau has never gone through a 4-7 stretch since Feb. 1. He’s pointed the finger at his players for not having enough intensity, and he’s pointed the finger at himself for not being able to prepare his team, especially offensively.

“I thought we took the wrong shots,’’ Thibodeau said of the latest slipup. “We were quick shooting the ball, didn’t get the ball moving from side-to-side.

“We started off the third quarter low energy, tough shots, no defense, and game over.’’

Basically the same description he gave after losses to Brooklyn, Indiana, Denver, San Antonio, Boston, Miami, and now the Thunder.

The reality of the situation? This is what happens when a team is down to its third-string point guard, and what stands out even more is Kirk Hinrich is a lot more important to the Bulls this season than he’s been given credit for by most.

In the team’s last seven losses, Hinrich was in street clothes, nursing the right elbow problem that has now cost him 10 of the last 11 games the team has played. The one game he did play in was a 96-87 win in New Orleans, in which Hinrich handed out 10 assists and the team was plus-11 while the veteran was on the court.

As a matter of fact, Hinrich’s presence has been felt in most of the key wins for the Bulls this season, especially against playoff teams.

A Jan. 25 win over Golden State, Hinrich put up 25 points and the team was a plus-18 in his 39 minutes on the floor. A Jan. 21 win over the Lakers, Hinrich had 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while going plus-10. And a Jan. 4 win over the Heat in Miami, he scored 10 points with eight assists, while the Bulls were plus-13 when Hinrich was on the floor.

With Derrick Rose still rehabbing his left knee, Nate Robinson has been a pleasant surprise this season, and through the first half did an above average job of running the point when Hinrich was on the shelf or needed a breather, but Robinson is still a shoot-first, pass-second guard, and that’s caught up with an offense that is void of a superstar and needs to share the ball.

“Offensive execution, everybody can do that,’’ center Joakim Noah said, when asked to explain the offensive problems. “We’ve all got to sacrifice for one another and execute better. We’re not playing well.’’

The way Noah sees it, when the execution is bad offensively, the Bulls’ usually stingy defense can only hold up so long. For a team built on intensity and high energy, playing on their heels by the third quarter quickly erases those emotions.

That’s been on display far too often the last month.

“We took steps backwards,’’ Noah said. “That’s what’s frustrating. We’ve played a lot better this year, so there is really no excuse. We just have to bounce back, ASAP.’’

The good news is that Hinrich is progressing. He could miss tonight’s game against the Cavaliers, but if there are no setbacks, Thursday might be more realistic.

“Against good teams we’ve got to get to our second and third options,’’ Thibodeau said. “The ball has to move, good energy, have to sprint at the screens, set great screens, pass the ball to the target, have to have timing and spacing, you have to do all those things.’’

Hinrich makes that possible, at least until a certain MVP is up and running.



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