Visits to Houston, OKC likely to worsen Bulls’ troubles
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter December 17, 2013 9:23PM
Updated: December 17, 2013 9:38PM
The Bulls’ snowball of problems might be turning into a landslide with back-to-back road games in Houston and Oklahoma City starting Wednesday night.
‘‘It’s comparable to if you’re a really good shooter and just have some stretch of games where you’re not making shots,’’ veteran guard/forward Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday. ‘‘Well, you’ve just got to get in the gym and practice and start believing, and most of the time it starts with your mentality.
‘‘I think with this group, obviously we’ve taken so many hits, whether it be on or off the court, with losses to injuries and the win-loss column. It’s certainly a mental thing right now to get over that. How [do] you do it, how [do] you get out of that? If we knew, we would do it.
‘‘I think the first thing is going to start somehow, some way, just get a win against a really good team, and we have that opportunity this trip.’’
But the way the Bulls (9-14) are playing recently, their two-game losing streak very possibly could stretch to four against the Rockets and Thunder. The latest disappointment came Monday, an 83-82 loss to the Orlando Magic in which forward Luol Deng hiccupped a layup in the final seconds that would have ended the misery.
The Bulls have gone 3-11 in their last 14 and haven’t won back-to-back games since Nov. 16 and 18 — unheard of in the Tom Thibodeau era.
Yes, the injuries have piled up this season, but this is also a team that had grown used to playing short-handed the last few seasons.
Thibodeau was asked if he was surprised his players aren’t responding like they did last season.
“No, because we didn’t have this many guys out,’’ he said. ‘‘And with that being said, if you go back through the games . . . these are one-possession games that are very winnable. Last year is last year. This is a different year, different team.’’
Who knew that Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli could have meant so much?
‘‘Well that’s the challenge when you have a lot of new guys,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘You’ve got to respond. You have guys that are in the rotation that haven’t been in the rotation, so they have to learn on the fly. With that being said, I think we do have enough.’’
Thibodeau wouldn’t say for sure, but with Kirk Hinrich (back) again questionable, there’s a good chance that newly acquired D.J. Augustin will be the starter at point guard against the Rockets.
Deng, guard Jimmy Butler and center Joakim Noah all seem to be over their injuries. Thibodeau indicated that as they settle into their roles, the cohesiveness will result in more wins.
‘‘Things are always changing, and it’s how quickly you can adapt and adjust,’’ he said.
Dunleavy said the injuries ‘‘have gotten to the point now where it’s just frequent.’’
‘‘Each and every night we’re trying to make the most of it,’’ he said, ‘‘and it’s almost like we expect somebody to be out, and the next guy’s got to step up and we’re just right there.
“I mean, we’ve had so many close games — four, five, six games here and there — where it’s really one-possession games. If it goes our way, we’re sitting there, looking at, ‘Wow, we’ve done a great job weathering the storm with all these injuries’ and all that, so we’ve just got to hang in there and not let it snowball, not let it get too mental right now, which I think we’ll do.’’