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Bulls waste Noah’s big night, lose back-to-back to fall to .500

Published: Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 9:18 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — PORTLAND, Ore. — After 10 games, one word sums up the Bulls without Derrick Rose.

Average.

The Trail Blazers’ 102-94 victory Sunday night at the Rose Garden dropped the Bulls to 1-2 on their season-high, five-game trip and 5-5 overall, a sobering, even-keeled reminder of life without a superstar.

The Bulls lost two straight games for just the sixth time in Tom Thibodeau’s tenure and have now surrendered 100 or more points in four straight games for the first time since he took over as coach.

“We have to learn to put stops together,” Luol Deng said. “I don’t like comparing teams, but that’s what we did well last year. The second unit came in and got stops in a row. Everyone talks about offense, but it’s the stops we got. That’s how we won games. And that’s what we have to get back to.”

The Bulls rarely play well at the Rose Garden, falling for the fifth straight time here and ninth in their last 11 trips.

Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum each scored 21 points to top all five starters in double figures. That included hyped rookie Damian Lillard, who finished with 16 points before needlessly dunking at the buzzer in an act that caught the Bulls’ attention.

“I just told him you can’t do that,” Taj Gibson said.

Lillard said he now knows to dribble the ball out and that he meant no disrespect.

There was enough disrespect in the way the Bulls failed to defend and turned it over, with four of their 19 turnovers coming after they erased a 15-point deficit and pulled even in the fourth quarter on Gibson’s three-point play.

The Bulls, who struggled with defensive transition and closeouts all game, watched Ronnie Price sink a jumper off an offensive rebound and Batum swish a 3-pointer after a loose-ball foul on Noah. Price then capped the quick, 8-0 run with a three-point play off a Kirk Hinrich turnover and foul.

“The one group that played some pretty good defense was Kirk, Jimmy (Butler), Lu, Taj and Jo,” Thibodeau said. “We have to get that part down. You’re not going to win on the road with the approach we have right now.”

The defeat wasted a big effort from Noah, who finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

After a strong start, the Bulls were outscored 28-13 in the second quarter. They coughed up seven turnovers. They allowed 59 percent shooting. They rarely contested shots and got beat downcourt often, particularly by Lillard.

It was the second straight night the Bulls were badly outplayed in the second quarter. The Clippers enjoyed a 35-25 advantage on Saturday night.

This continues to raise questions about the bench, which Thibodeau isn’t playing as extensively as the group from the last two seasons.

“We’ve tried a lot of different combinations,” Thibodeau said. “So we’ll see.”

Deng sighed.

“It’s been awhile since we lost two in a row,” he said. “Even when we have things going on, we battle hard. We played harder in spurts. In LA we didn’t play hard. And that’s the concern.”

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