Consistency has been a hallmark of the Tom Thibodeau era. The Bulls have won, defended and played hard with metronomic regularity.
Now, beyond the lineup switching almost nightly because of myriad injuries, you never know what you’re going to get.
Failing to capitalize on any momentum generated from Friday’s come-from-behind victory in Milwaukee, the Bulls came up extremely flat in a 99-77 loss to the Raptors on Saturday night at the United Center
Those weren’t chants for Carlos Boozer trickling down from the 300 level during the fourth quarter, when the Raptors ran away and hid with a 26-7 run.
“Losing sucks. There’s no question about it,” an expansive Joakim Noah said. “But it also shows people’s true colors: Who is willing to keep fighting through the adversity, or who is just going to say, ‘You know what? I don’t want no part of this. And I’m just going to take bad shots and not care at all about making winning plays or playing defense.’
“Everybody has to stay together.”
Is Noah confident that will happen?
“I think everybody will,” he said. “That’s the makeup of this team. There’s high character in this locker room. It’s tough to lose, but it’s all about how you deal with adversity.”
Not even the return of Luol Deng from missing four games with a sore left Achilles could salvage an effort that featured 36 percent shooting. The Bulls have failed to shoot better than 40 percent in four of the last five games and nine of the last 14.
They also have failed to crack 80 points in four of the last five. Of course, losing Kirk Hinrich to a bad back — the latest in a string of seemingly nightly injuries — didn’t help matters.
In just their 22nd game, the Bulls used their 10th lineup. Even Thibodeau’s pregame declaration of “next man up get the job done” sounded flat.
“We’ve all kind of accepted at this point that that’s just the way it’s going to be,” Mike Dunleavy said of the widespread injuries. “You just have to roll with it and hope people don’t let it affect them.”
Deng looked solid with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds. But 15 of those points came in the first half, and his career-best string of six straight games with 20 or more points ended.
“I came out aggressive, shot the ball great,” Deng said. “The second half, I felt my timing was off — not so much fatigue, just timing really.”
Noah posted his third straight double-double and fifth in six games with 10 points and 12 rebounds. But new acquisition D.J. Augustin missed six of seven shots. Boozer clanked 14 of 18.
“He’s just got to keep working, run the floor more, get some easy ones,” Thibodeau said.
Nothing is coming easy offensively for the Bulls, who never led.
“Our effort was good in spurts but not as good as it has to be,” Noah said. “That’s disappointing. We don’t say that too much. We have to keep grinding and get better.”