Bulls gag up 13-point fourth-quarter lead and lose to the Indiana Pacers here Saturday night 108-101.
Bulls player loses it, this time Andres Nocioni, and gets into a heated, expletive-filled confrontation with coach Jim Boylan and is sent to the locker room and expelled for the rest of the game.
The Bulls: Where dysfunction happens.
"I want to extend my apology to my coach," Nocioni said in the locker room after another devastating collapse and loss. "I think I did a really bad thing today, terrible. My apology to the organization, to [general manager] John Paxson, to my teammates and to everybody because my reaction was pretty bad. Right now I'm calm and I was really frustrated. My reaction was really bad. All right? Thank you, guys."
With that Nocioni, who was yanked in the second quarter after a brief three-minute stretch in which he hit his only shot, departed with much less enthusiasm than he did in the game.
At that point, in an even, back-and-forth first half with the Bulls playing well, Nocioni apparently cursed at Boylan and kicked a towel, was sent from the bench to the locker room and engaged in a halftime shouting encounter.
Asked about the incident after the game, Boylan answered each query by saying, "That's a matter that will be handled internally."
Nocioni is expected to be fined.
The Bulls have had plenty of practice, with Chris Duhon, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas involved in missed practices or disputes with coaches and subsequent fines or suspensions during this lost season.
The Bulls fell to 27-42 (there goes the .500 season) with the loss and are three games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot as the Hawks beat Orlando. But the Bulls also trail the Pacers and Nets in what seems an unlikely scenario for them to make the playoffs.
Boylan still isn't giving up hope.
"It's a big step back for us," Boylan said of still another fourth-quarter collapse. "We still have games left to play and we're competing against teams right there with us. This season is not over for us. There's no one cashing it in, no one quitting. Everyone is going to keep working and we can still work our way back into this thing."
You want to say no, but then you see teams equally disturbed, like the Pacers, who won their fourth straight with Mike Dunleavy scoring 25 points, 13 in the fourth quarter, and Troy Murphy 24. The Pacers made 13 of 26 three-pointers and took advantage of the Bulls season-long selfishness for an unexpected victory.
It didn't seem like it would happen with the score tied 55-55 at halftime after eight lead changes when the Bulls went ahead 84-73 after three quarters behind aggressive work on the offensive boards by Noah, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, and 28 points from Luol Deng, who for three quarters brought back memories of his slashing, dashing play from last season.
Then there was the fourth-quarter collapse.
"In every sport, every player has been through those dog days," Drew Gooden said. "Noce had his today. You can't blame him. He's a competitor and wants to play. He's a good teammate. It just wasn't his day."
Nor the Bulls', like so many this season.