The ‘we have more than enough to win with’ phrase that’s a common theme from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and the thought throughout the team’s locker room has to feel like a mirage at this point of the season.
The Bulls (35-29) suffered another shorthanded loss without Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton and Taj Gibson. It wasn’t the grind-it-out affair that has been common during their inspired play to try and hold things down until their teammates come back healthy from injury. It was an embarrassing 121-79 blowout at Sleep Train Arena. The name mirroring the Bulls play on both ends of the floor as they were down as much as 45.
“Our level of intensity is very poor,” Thibodeau said. “Our readiness to play is very poor. I’m probably most disappointed in myself. My job is to have them ready. We can’t come out like that. That’s on me. I didn’t like our intensity in the Laker game and I didn’t like it tonight. I got to drive harder. And I will.
“There’s a fine line right now because we’re down people,” he continued. “So the people that are there [able to play], we can never forget how hard we have to play. So the guys that are there, I got to get that intensity up and I will. I will. Trust me on that one.”
The acceptance of blame is noble on Thibodeau’s part, but the promise to drive harder probably isn’t a good one for a team that as low margin for error or effort as the shorthanded club.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with a team-high 21 points. Nate Robinson added 19 points.
Sacramento shot 54 percent from the field, outscored the Bulls by 10 in fast break points (27-17) and 50-38 in the paint. After scoring 65 points in the first half, they never cooled off or saw any resistance from their opponent. Tyreke Evans led them with a game-high 26 points and Isaiah Thomas added 22.
The loss is easily the worst in Thibodeau’s tenure, eclipsing a 32-point beat down suffered in Denver on Feb. 7. After going 5-8 in February, the Bulls are 2-4 so far in the month of March.
“Every team has somebody out,” said a frustrated Boozer. “They’re not going to feel sorry for us, so we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to win games.
“I hope it does [wake us up]. We need it to because the playoffs will be here in the blink of an eye. We’ll have a quick exit if we keep playing like this in the playoffs.”
While it is a demoralizing loss, the worrisome issue for the Bulls is the way they were outhustled, beat down the floor and were at the mercy of a team without its best player, as DeMarcus Cousins sat out.
“We’re not competing the way we’re supposed to be competing,” Joakim Noah said. “We have a lot of guys out. Our margin of error is very small. If we don’t go into games with the right mindset, then we have no chance.
Each and every single one of us has to look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what? It starts with me. I have to work harder. I have to come more prepared.’ We know that we’re capable.”
The Bulls will play the Golden State Warriors (37-29) on Friday.