(MCT) — CHICAGO — Pick a home loss, any home loss. There are plenty of whoppers from which to choose.
But Tuesday night’s debacle against a Cavaliers team that hadn’t won in the series — anywhere — since March 19, 2010 would have to be in the conversation. Particularly because the Cavaliers ended the Bulls’ 11-game winning streak in the series without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, out with a sore knee.
The Bulls fell to a meager 15-14 at the United Center following the 101-98 defeat, which featured them getting outrebounded 39-34, outhustled 22-18 in second-chance points and allowing 49.4 percent shooting.
An offensively challenged team still without Derrick Rose won’t win many like that.
“We can’t pick and choose,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We can’t play one side of the ball. It can’t be the offense one night and the defense the next. Or play one quarter.
“Until we get the level of intensity up and play with high energy at both ends, the result is not going to be good. You get what you deserve in this league. And we’re getting what we deserve right now.”
The home loss to the Cavaliers joins such other notables as — deep breath here — blowing a 27-point lead to the Bucks; falling to a Suns team that had lost 12 straight road games; losing to lowly Bobcats and Hornets teams; allowing 120 points to the Rockets on Christmas and dropping to the Spurs without their Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Not even a strong return from Kirk Hinrich, who had 11 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, could stop this one. Playing without Taj Gibson, the Bulls were outplayed totally in all the hustle areas they often dominate.
“We’re not playing very well right now,” Joakim Noah said. “We gave up a lot of layups. We have to find a way to play with more urgency and with less frustration.”
Dion Waiters’ 25 points led five Cavaliers in double figures, calmly sinking a jumper with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left after the Bulls trimmed a nine-point deficit to one.
Following a Luol Deng miss, Shaun Livingston, starting for Irving, rebounded Alonzo Gee’s miss to set up Luke Walton’s jumper with 81 seconds left.
The Bulls hung around and had a chance to tie in the waning seconds. But Deng, who scored 26, missed a jumper that Walton rebounded. Livingston iced matters with two free throws with 15.8 seconds left.
Gibson is arguably the Bulls’ most important reserve, able to guard multiple positions and back up both the power forward and center positions.
“He’s our X-factor,” Nate Robinson said. “He’s our garbageman who picks up all the garbage on the court. He plays hard. We’re going to miss that.”
Thibodeau said replacing the versatile Gibson will be situational and depend on matchups. Carlos Boozer stepped up with 27 points in 39 minutes. But the Bulls’ bench was outscored 36-19.
Hinrich said he may use the long sleeve he wore to protect his right elbow the rest of the season. The Bulls need similarly to find a way to stop the bleeding.