It's been a rather trying year for Bulls fans, between the myriad of injuries last season, Derrick Rose's mangled ACL and then the "basketball decisions" offseason. So it's only fitting that the Bulls would end 2012 with an absolutely wretched performance in a 91-81 loss against a brutal Bobcats team that had lost 18 games in a row heading into play on Monday.
Despite playing like garbage for much of the game, the Bulls did enter the fourth quarter tied at 65. But they were outscored 26-16 in the final frame, with Hakim Warrick's poster of Marco Belinelli providing the exclamation point after the Bulls looked like they would possibly make a run thanks to some horrific free throw shooting by the Bobcats. Tom Thibodeau even went to a Hack-a-Bismack strategy in the fourth quarter, forcing Bismack Biyombo to get pulled from the game. But it would be to no avail, as the Bulls just couldn't make enough shots to pull off a comeback.
Things looked rather ominous form the start, as the Bulls came out lazy and uninspired, clanking shots and getting abused by dribble penetration by the seemingly endless supply of smallish Bobcats guards. With Nate Robinson failing to do much of anything right on either end, this was actually a game where Kirk Hinrich would have been a sight for sore eyes (Kirk was out with...something).
The Bulls also struggled on the boards in the early going (and for much of the game), which has been a bit of a trend lately. Joakim Noah really struggled in the first half (and for much of the gamae), scoring no points and grabbing only one rebound. Noah's struggles in the first half led to Nazr Mohammed getting a good amount of run for the second straight game, which had pretty mixed results. Mohammed is still a solid rebounder, but he really can't move on defense and got eaten up several times by former Bull Ben Gordon (who, for some idiotic reason, is still getting booed at the UC).
The bench did do some nice things in the second quarter, getting the team back in the game after going down 28-18 after the first quarter. Taj Gibson brought a ton of energy and made some contributions on offense, while Marquis Teague did an adequate job running the show. Teague was very hesitant to shoot open jumpers (and we saw why later), but he had a few nice forays to the bucket. Marco Belinelli also chipped in a few threes, and the Bulls cut the Bobcats' lead in half by the break.
After just a woeful start to the second half got the Bulls down double-digits again, the Bobcats began to look more like the Bobcats, turning the ball over and allowing Chicago to get out on the fast break. The Bulls' fast break has been an adventure quite a lot this season, but they were able to convert on multiple opportunities in the third quarter that helped tie the score before that unfortunate fourth quarter.
The final numbers are pretty horrific. The Bulls shot 35.1 percent against the worst defensive team in the league. They shot just 4-of-16 from three-point land. They were outrebounded 52-49. Noah had two points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Robinson went 2-of-11 with three turnovers and four fouls. Belinelli went 3-of-12 and 2-of-7 from three. Meanwhile, Gordon, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions combined for 64 of the Bobcats' 91 points.
The Bulls have played some pretty dreadful basketball of late, and it's starting to get somewhat concerning. I can forgive a bad game or two, but this is four straight poor games since that big win at Madison Square Garden. One common thread for all of these games is rather lackluster play from Noah, and one has to wonder if he's just a wee-bit tired right now. The Bulls need him to pick things up again, because the team feeds off his energy. He was lifeless today, and that spread throughout the rest of the squad like a plague.
Happy New Year's Bulls fans. Hopefully 2013 will be a bit more cheery, although the snark will never stop no matter what at Blog a Bull. Enjoy the night and have a drink or two (or more) to help forget this dreadful performance.