As offense improves, Chicago Bulls' defense sinks quickly

The Chicago Bulls are starting to accomplish the goal of becoming a higher-scoring team, but their defense is going south.

During February, the Bulls ranked 29th in the league in defensive field-goal percentage (.492) and 25th in points allowed (111.4). In points scored, they were ninth at 108.7 and went 6-5 for the month.

The only team below them in both defensive categories was Denver, and the Bulls ended their month Tuesday with a 125-107 loss to the Nuggets.

The 125 points allowed was a season high for the Bulls' defense. The previous mark of 123 was set by Golden State, Thursday's opponent. Denver's 56.3 percent shooting barely missed hitting the season high for a Bulls opponent.

"You have to get back; you have to load to the ball and still be able to close out the shooters," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after Wednesday's practice. "It's just an individual battle that you've got to take some pride in and go out and win, and we didn't win enough of those (Tuesday).

"They were going around us, and when we did come and help they would spray it out to the shooter or get it to somebody rolling to the rim, and it exposed us. So it starts with guarding the ball and competing on the ball. We need to be better in that area."

Game slips away:

The loss to Denver was another reminder the Bulls are playing a lot of young guys and games can go awry quickly. The Bulls led with three minutes left in the third quarter before the Nuggets went on a 32-10 run.

"We had stretches where we played pretty good," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I thought the ball was really moving for the first 2½ quarters and then it got stagnant and then we took some forced shots and that fueled their break. The shot selection wasn't nearly as good.

"When we get (Paul) Zipser back in the lineup, we'll have six guys with first- or second-year experience that we've got in the rotation. Obviously, we're still trying to figure out exactly how and who we're going to play. And we'll try to figure it out."

For those keeping score, the six rookies and sophomores are Zipser, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio.

Injury update:

Coach Fred Hoiberg said both Paul Zipser (ankle) and Michael Carter-Williams (knee) participated in all of Wednesday's practice. It's not clear yet if they'll be available Thursday against Golden State.

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Passing of trade deadline may be good for Mirotic

Hoiberg won't say when he'll hand the reins to Payne

Portis gives Bulls a different look for starting lineup

Bulls' scoring can't keep up with bad defense in loss to Denver

Durant suffers knee injury, status questionable for Thursday vs. Bulls

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