For a variety of reasons, the Bulls can never seem to get their full lineup on the court against the Miami Heat.
In the 2011 playoffs, Omer Asik went down with a broken leg. In last year's playoff series, the Bulls were missing Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. Even when the Bulls snapped Miami's 27-game winning streak last season, they did it without Joakim Noah.
During Tuesday's 107-95 loss to the Heat, the Bulls expected to have their full lineup on the floor after a variety of injuries kept the starters apart in the preseason.
The regular lineup did start the game but didn't last long because of foul trouble. Luol Deng sat out the entire second quarter with 3 fouls, while Jimmy Butler played less than six minutes in the first half for the same reason.
Butler and Deng were parked on the bench when Miami went on the 17-0 run in the second quarter that essentially decided the game.
"I think the big thing is the foul trouble," coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday at the Berto Center. "We had a couple tight calls go against us, put Luol and Jimmy on the bench. It was a tough hit. We've got to respond better."
The funny thing about the foul trouble is both Deng and Butler were among the league leaders in not fouling last season. Deng was third in the NBA with just 1.7 fouls per 48 minutes -- ahead of LeBron James (1.8), trailing just Jamal Crawford (1.5) and Tayshaun Prince (1.6).
Butler averaged 2.2 fouls per 48 minutes last year but picked up 2 quick ones in Miami.
The second one was a tough call: Butler was whistled for a charge as he passed the ball. Replays showed defender Udonis Haslem sliding under Butler while he was in the air. But when you leave your feet in the lane, bad things tend to happen.
"It's tough because I feel like I'm an aggressive defender," Butler said Wednesday. "So when I get in foul trouble I can't be as aggressive. Maybe some calls went against me that I didn't agree with. But at the end of the day, I still can't foul."
Butler said he didn't bother asking for an explanation after the charge. The foul call also wiped out a made 3-point basket off Butler's pass. "You can't change it, so I just let it go," he said.
Deng's third foul late in the first quarter wasn't controversial. He pushed the ball upcourt himself and just ran into a defender for a clear charging call. Deng finished the night with 4 points, after playing well offensively in the preseason.
"I didn't do a good job of handling it. I had no rhythm. I wasn't as aggressive as I wanted to be after that, kind of watching my fouls," he said after the game, according to csnchicago.com. "Me and Jimmy can't sit out, especially against this team. They've got too many guys on the wing."
When Butler and Deng hit the bench, the plan was for Mike Dunleavy and rookie Tony Snell to step in and step up, but neither played well in the first half. Dunleavy fared better in the second half, when the Bulls scored 62 points.
Take away that 17-0 run and maybe the Bulls could say they played reasonably well. They did cut Miami's lead to 8 points late in the game, but that's not how NBA games work.
"Whatever the circumstances are, whether it's foul trouble, whatever it might be -- when our second unit comes in, they've got to play well," Thibodeau added. "The defense and the rebounding is something we've got to be able to count on.
"Once we got going and started moving the ball in the second half, we got better shots. So the offense came around, but we never re-established our defense."
Thibodeau added an expected note: The Miami game is just one of 82 and the Bulls have to be ready for the next one. Since he has been in Chicago, Thibodeau's teams often have struggled early, especially with new personnel on board.