I understand nearly every player played TERRIBLY tonight. Gordon didn't show up, Hinrich was turning over the ball, Deng was absent again, nobody could shoot.
But on their worst day. Worst day...and this was close to being their worst..Malik Allen is not worse than Luke Schenscher. Luol Deng is not worse than Erik Piatkowski. Gordon and Hinrich are not worse than Chris Duhon.
The days of playing your entire bench ended when the regular season did. And this isn't when the game was out of reach. This was a close game, in the 3rd quarter, in the most important game of the season. And out there is Schenscher and Piatkowski.
Near the end of the 3rd quarter both Sweetney (who had one of the few good performances tonight) and Nocioni picked up their fourth fouls. Instead of being replaced by Chandler and Allen, out come Piatkowski and Schenscher. Now Tyson Chandler did have a terrible game and finished with 5 fouls in 4 minutes, but at that time had only 3 fouls. Allen finished the game with only 2 fouls. In case you didn't know, these extra fouls do not carry over to the next game.
So at this point with Shaq on the bench and Wade slightly hobbled (but not nearly the gunshot wound-like injury that TNT was trying to make it seem) instead of trying to use this borrowed time to their advantage, Skiles instead played not to lose.
I'm dying to look at the gameflow (it's not up yet at popcornmachine), but while the Bulls did in fact not lose the game there (it was tied entering the fourth), they wasted a golden opportunity to take a lead. A few minutes into the 4th, and the game already started slipping away, and never even had the semblence of being close again.
There are bigger culprits as to why the Bulls didn't play well tonight. But despite their awful shooting they were still in the game in the second half. Shaq was in foul trouble again, and Wade was definately slowed. Why not let your best players try and play themselves out of their slump? Its not only the fact that they are your best players, but the Pike, Schensher, and Duhon are also giving away ground defensively! Schenscher is out there to at the very least use his fouls, and can't even force Shaq to the line. You play all these guys together and nothing gets run on offense. With nobody on the roster to get his own shot, the Bulls always have to run their offense, it is no great secret how they had these minutes-long scoring droughts.
So I don't understand why their best players can't stay on the court. On their worst night they can't contribute anything less than their replacements.