The Bulls haven’t exactly been on fire offensively, shooting below 40 percent for the third straight game Sunday.
During the 90-81 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the more important storyline was Derrick Rose’s hamstrings on fire.
At least, that’s what ABC broadcaster Doris Burke said she heard from Rose before the game, that his hamstrings are “on fire” after his basketball workouts.
This appears to be another problem delaying his return from ACL surgery, along with the “not comfortable dunking off his left leg” issue reported by an anonymous source a few days earlier.
Everyone associated with the Bulls is anxiously awaiting Rose’s return. In the meantime, they could really use Kirk Hinrich (sore foot) and Taj Gibson (sprained knee) back in the lineup. Without them, the Bulls have struggled to score against quality competition.
On Sunday in L.A., Nate Robinson (19 points) and Joakim Noah (18 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks) played well. But Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli combined to shoot 29 percent from the field (14-for-47).
“We’re in every game. We play hard. We’re just not making our shots,” Robinson told reporters after the game. “We’ll be all right. We’ll start making them.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau rode the starters Sunday, giving them 85 percent of the minutes. Off the bench, Jimmy Butler logged 24 minutes, while Nazr Mohammed played nine and Marquis Teague just three.
“It’s no time for excuses,” Noah said, according to espn.com. “We’ve still got to go out there and play the game, play the game the right way. And I think a lot of it is mental with us.
“We just get frustrated very easily right now, and I think that if we stick together through these hard times, I think it’s going to make our team that much better.”
The Bulls took the lead briefly when Boozer’s short jumper made it 36-34 with 4:26 left in the first half. They eventually trailed 44-40 at intermission.
The Lakers started to pull away in the middle of the third quarter. After a Boozer jumper kept the Bulls within 53-47 with 8:11 left, they went scoreless for the next 4˝ minutes, missing 10 straight shots until Noah’s putback at the 3:45 mark of the quarter.
It was only a 6-0 Lakers run, though, until Kobe Bryant and Jodie Meeks hit back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch the lead to 65-47.
The Bulls got as close as 77-69 after a Boozer layup with 8:02 remaining, but they missed four chances to pull closer and the Lakers put things away.
This isn’t much consolation, but the Bulls were the first team to hold Bryant below 20 points since Boston on Feb. 20. He scored a combined 83 points in the Lakers’ previous two games and averaged 35.9 points in the last eight.
Center Dwight Howard, meanwhile, had 16 points, 21 rebounds and 4 blocks, looking much healthier than he did during a Lakers loss at Chicago in January.
“I thought Howard in particular in the first half set the tone,” Thibodeau said. “He just dominated the paint with shot-blocking, rebounding, physicality.”
The Bulls have two days off before their California road trip continues in Sacramento on Wednesday. So there is some hope Hinrich or Gibson, maybe even Rose, could play before they return home.
“We’ve beaten teams with the guys that we have. We have enough to win,” Deng said, according to csnchicago.com. “I just think we could do a better job of just getting guys into it early and getting rhythm shots. We’re getting a lot of random shots right now.”
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