CHICAGO -- It's something of a stunner when the team that always demonstrates a sense of urgency looks emotionally empty in Game 1 of the playoffs. When the team that knows it has to rebound doesn't. When the team that knows it has to move bodies and the ball to generate offense doesn't. When the team that knows its calling card is defense doesn't play much of it. It's not often in the Tom Thibodeau era that the Bulls are a flat-out disappointment, but they were in their 102-93 Game 1 loss to the Wizards.
There wasn't a single department where the Bulls played up to their standard in the opener, causing Thibs to say afterward, "You have to make your adjustments quickly."
The adjustments couldn't be more obvious. The first one, if the Bulls are going to salvage a split at home, is to not let the Wizards hit 49 percent of their shots again. On a night when Washington's two most explosive offensive players, John Wall and Bradley Beal, missed 18 of 25 shots and looked every bit like two guys making their playoff debuts, the Bulls allowed Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat and Andre Miller to make 64 percent of their shots. The Bulls got suckered time and again in the fourth quarter by back cuts that produced layups, whether from Gortat to Beal or Miller to Nene or Nene to Gortat. The NBA's No. 2-ranked defense (which allowed opponents 43 percent shooting for the season) looked slow, uninspired and confused. And if that was the only issue confronting the Bulls between now and Tuesday's Game 2, it might not be all that big a deal.
But it isn't.
They whined the entire game about calls on a night when referees' calls weren't worth discussing. One former NBA player who watched the game in person said, "They whined all night and there were no hard fouls, no controversial calls. The number of foul calls was pretty even [26 against the Wizards, 25 against the Bulls], but they didn't play through anything. They need to shut up."
It was duly noted by Thibodeau, who himself said, "We can't allow frustration to get in the way of what you're trying to do."
The checklist extends beyond bad defense and temperament. The Bulls didn't pass the ball. The first thing Kirk Hinrich went looking for on the stat sheet was team assists. The Bulls had 13.
"That's an uncharacteristically low number for us," he said. The Bulls average 22.6 assists per game, so 13 at home is an abomination. Bodies didn't move, neither did the ball.
The number of assists, for the Bulls, is hugely important because they don't have a player ( Derrick Rose) who can take the ball by himself and create offense. It's a team that can score only by moving bodies and the ball, which is why the Bulls scored a grand total of six points the final six minutes.
"The movement without the ball," Thibs said, "was bad. The screens were weak."
Some of this might be Thibs' fault. Look, nobody's a bigger Thibodeau fan than I am, but his devotion to a specific rotation probably cost him in Game 1. Carlos Boozer has been affixed to the bench for the entire fourth quarter 46 times by unofficial count. But Boozer is the only reliable frontcourt scorer the team has and Boozer had no trouble getting his jump shot off cleanly over Gortat, who is a stout defender but not particularly scary in space.