CHICAGO – If anyone needed a reminder of what Bulls general manager John Paxson meant when he recently criticized his team, Friday provided an excellent example.
Overmatched on defense and
sloppy on off-
ense, the Bulls lost to the Toronto Raptors in a meeting of struggling teams Friday at the United Center.
The 114-94 defeat featured an 18-0 run by Toronto in the final 5:23. It featured 23 turnovers by the Bulls, and 56.6-percent shooting by the Raptors.
A lack of defensive intensity and poor decision-making offensively were issues Paxson cited Wednesday when he said, “We’re not very good right now.”
The Bulls certainly fit that description Friday, dropping their fourth consecutive game.
“We made too many mistakes,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I wasn’t happy with our energy or our demeanor in the fourth quarter.”
The Bulls next must go on the road for seven consecutive games, all against Western Conference teams, but perhaps that’s just as well. They have lost their past three home games.
It has been a tumultuous week, with Paxson’s comments preceding a minor public spat between Del Negro and guard Ben Gordon.
Getting out of the Chicago media spotlight might help the Bulls clear their heads.
Then again, who really knows with this team.
“It’s tough,” Gordon said. “We just have to hold our heads up and we have to play better if we want to win.”
The Raptors (17-28) benefited from a key reinforcement. Point guard Jose Calderon played after missing 10 of the previous 11 games with a hamstring injury.
Calderon controlled the game, making nine of 10 shots for 23 points and dishing out 10 assists. The Bulls (18-26) also failed to handle the Raptors’ length up front, with center Andrea Bargnani scoring 22 points and forward Chris Bosh adding 17.
And yet after Luol Deng’s jumper with 5:23 remaining, the Bulls were within 94-92.
During the rest of the game, they went 0-for-7 from the field and at one point missed four consecutive free throws. They committed the last of their 23 turnovers.
They also sagged defensively, allowing Toronto to make its final six shots.
“In the NBA it’s all about team defense,” Gordon said. “You have to rely on your teammates and your system. Right now we’re just not playing team defense.”
As far as turnovers, eight of the Bulls’ players had at least two giveaways. The biggest culprits were Derrick Rose and Andres Nocioni with four apiece.
“I think I was thinking too much out there,” Rose said.
Del Negro said “there’s no explanation” for the team’s messy play, a continuation of what happened in Tuesday night’s loss to Atlanta.
“We’re making bad decisions with the ball,” Del Negro said. “We stress it in practice. We go over film and talk about it.”
The player who especially struggled was forward Joakim Noah. He fouled out after playing 14 minutes, finishing with no points and three rebounds along with three turnovers.
Gordon had a team-high 19 points, but missed nine of his 14 shots.