The hits keep coming for the seemingly hexed Bulls.
The team lost its fourth straight and for 13th time in the past 16 games when the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated them 105-97 on Thursday.
With Kirk Hinrich missing his third straight game to tightness in his back, the Bulls (9-16) were also with Luol Deng, who re-aggravated his right Achilles injury. They then lost Jimmy Butler in the second quarter to a sprained right ankle that was severe enough to put the third-year guard/forward on crutches leaving Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Deng told reporters his target return is Christmas, which will be in Brooklyn. It’s anyone’s guess when Hinrich will be back and Butler -- who was playing in just his fifth game since returning from a right turf toe injury and after scoring a season high 20 on Wednesday in Houston – sounds like he will be on the mend once again.
For a team using its 12th different lineup on the season and one failing to hit 40 percent shooting in six of its past eight games while ranking next to last in offense (91.4 ppg), less, meaning healthy bodies, isn't good.
Through losing Derrick Rose for the season and the ensuing injuries that followed, there has never been a feeling of panic, only frustration and concern for not being able to command the grit needed in finding ways to win like in years past when injuries had befallen them. With the odds continually being stacked against them, it’s natural to begin to wonder if the resilient bunch is fighting a battle the likes of which they can’t overcome.
“We still represent the Chicago Bulls,” a determined Joakim Noah told reporters after finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds in Thursday’s loss. “We still represent Chicago. Chicago is a city that deals with a lot of adversity. We’re dealing with a lot of adversity. We just have to fight. That’s the nature of this city.”
It’s also the nature of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and the core of the team. It’s a nature that makes them one of the hardest playing teams in the league, never making an excuse for the circumstances. A nature that saw them get past the Brooklyn Nets last season in seven games in the first round. A nature that saw them with the Eastern Conference best record two years in a row before that.
The fight will never be questioned, but there's only so many times you can go to battle with a depleted calvary.
“The challenge for us is not to accept what’s going on, to keep fighting and believe that, ‘Hey, we’re going to get these guys back at some point,” Thibodeau told reporters.
The injured will be back and the battle of this season has now become more about fighting for respectability and pride than it ever will be about earning banner No. 7, which has seem to only slip further out of conscious since they fell to the Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.