No matter the circumstances that they’re faced with, the Bulls pride themselves on a no-excuse policy.
Even without the services of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls hung around until the final minutes, but came up short as they fell to the Brooklyn Nets 93-89.
Joe Johnson’s three-pointer with 2 minutes remaining put Brooklyn ahead 86-80. The Bulls would close their deficit to two after a Taj Gibson basket, followed by a pair of free throws by Nate Robinson.
Luol Deng’s basket off an inbounds steal made things interesting as it cut the Bulls deficit to 91-89 with 15 seconds remaining, but a pair of C.J. Watson free throws would seal the game for good.
Deng and Marco Belinelli each finished with 18. Taj Gibson scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds as he and Deng played the entire 48 minutes.
Without their starting frontcourt, the Bulls were outrebounded 40-29 and outscored 56-44 in the paint.
“When you’re short-handed, it’s imperative to play great defense,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s also imperative to play hard. You can’t take any plays off, you’re undersized. You got to have fight, you have to be on the boards and you have to take the right shots.”
The Bulls dug themselves a hole in the first quarter, falling behind 24-14, but managed to put the clamps on Brooklyn in the second quarter, holding the Nets to 17 and taking a 42-41 lead into halftime.
"I felt like we had a great shot to win, a couple plays just didn't go our way," Gibson said. "We didn't really do too well on defense late, including myself. And then late in the fourth quarter, we got to get stop. The most important quarter is the fourth quarter. And right before we went out there we told ourselves, ‘We have to win this quarter,’ and we didn't get that done."
Things don’t get easier for the Bulls as they take on the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and will be without Noah and Hinrich again. Carlos Boozer is questionable with a sore right hamstring.