Thud! That was the sound of the Bulls hitting bottom Wednesday night after they lost 93-80 to the Charlotte Bobcats.
"We haven't played well of late," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "It's obvious for anyone to see."
The Bulls are last in their division with a 12-16 record and five consecutive losses. Charlotte, actually, is closer to last place in the East, but the Bobcats now have beaten the Bulls two straight.
Charlotte did so this time by playing poorly, shooting 37.5 percent, committing 21 turnovers the Bulls converted into 25 points, missing 10 of 12 three-pointers and playing Kevin Burleson, Bernard Robinson and Keith Bogans in crucial stretches with two starters out injured and starting point guard Brevin Knight leaving the game in the second quarter with a sprained ankle.
The Bobcats took wild shots in the lane, had a pair of palming violations, received two 2-of-14 shooting from their other point guard, Raymond Felton, and trailed by nine midway through the third quarter.
"They made a run at us and started pressuring and we didn't have much poise," Skiles said.
That was in the pivotal stretch of the game to open the fourth quarter when the Bulls melted. The Bulls opened the quarter with a turnover by Darius Songaila against pressure, a backcourt violation, a missed jumper, another turnover on a pass from Chris Duhon, then another steal from Songaila and a blocked shot on Kirk Hinrich.
By the time the Bulls finally beat the pressure with a pass over the top to Songaila for a layup, the Bobcats had kept the Bulls from scoring for more than five minutes and had outscored them 12-0. The Bobcats then got three offensive rebounds on the next two possessions and scored, effectively putting the game away as Skiles tried a three-man substitution that had little effect.
The Bulls were dominated all over the court, outplayed and outhustled by a young team playing most of its reserves.
The Bulls were outrebounded 50-38, 21-11 on the offensive boards, with the legendary Primoz Brezec getting a season-high 14 rebounds to go with 17 points. Melvin Ely led the Bobcats with 20 points, and he was just coming off missing a week with the flu. The Bobcats had played in Atlanta on Tuesday night while the Bulls were in Charlotte for the night.
The Bulls missed 10 of 16 free throws, had 25 turnovers and committed 32 personal fouls. It probably was as poor an effort as the team has had in the last two years. Luol Deng led them with 18 points.
"We are a team for whatever reason losing confidence," Skiles said. "But that's also how you evaluate players. You have to maintain your confidence to be a pro. I'm not concerned about the losses [as much as] I'm concerned about some of the things I see going on, on the practice floor, at shootarounds, during the game. I'm concerned about our overall team attitude right now.
"I wish I could articulate it better. There are definitely things that are different in our key players since I've known them. It's clear we are struggling. During one stretch [the Bobcats] got four shots at the basket. They outhustled us around the basket. That's our formula. We have a healthy list of things we need to do."
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