Bulls’ poor play sparks fans’ chants for Bryant
As the second half of the Bulls’ 101-71 loss to the Toronto Raptors wore on, the United Center crowd expressed its displeasure with everything from boos to cheering the Raptors to chanting the name of disgruntled Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
If this defeat doesn’t prove to be the low point of Bulls’ season, it could be a very long year for the franchise.
Led by Carlos Delfino’s 16 points and T.J. Ford’s 14 assists, the Raptors, playing their fourth game in five nights, looked like the fresher team. They broke the game open in the third quarter, angering the fans and leading Bulls coach Scott Skiles to bench his starters. With the dreaded “circus trip” looming, the 1-5 Bulls are facing a critical point in their season.
“I have no answer,” Bulls forward Luol Deng said. “We’ve got to see what’s wrong and we’ve got to get better. This is really disappointing.”
Toward the end of the third quarter, the Bulls’ lineup consisted of reserves Chris Duhon, Andres Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Thabo Sefolosha and Viktor Khryapa. Aaron Gray replaced Joakim Noah to start the fourth with the Bulls trailing 77-43. At one point the Raptors led by 39 points and the fans were doing the wave.
“We’ve got to play better,” Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. “We can’t expect the crowd to be happy about that or applaud the effort we’re putting out there. … I don’t know what our problem is, but we’ve got to figure it out. The most important thing right now is that we stay together as a team and don’t start doubting ourselves.”
The Bulls trailed, 41-30, at halftime, but instead of the home team coming out of the locker room with a jolt of energy, the opposite happened. Toronto began the half with an 11-1 run, and the game was not competitive again.
“On a night when the boo birds are already out, I don’t want to embarrass the [starters] like that,” Skiles said of the mass benching. “But I thought I’d take a gamble and see if someone could come in the game and be a catalyst.”
After the game, Bulls players seemed some combination of bewildered and dejected.
“It seems like it’s one or the other for us this year – offense or defense,” guard Kirk Hinrich said. “Whatever the reasons, we have to figure it out as a group. We’re just not getting the job done and it’s very frustrating. I’m sure frustration is at an all-time high here.”
Nocioni led the Bulls with 20 points and Gordon was the only starter in double figures with 11. Toronto’s Jamaria Moon, who started largely to defend Deng, outscored Deng, 12-5.
The Bulls, who scored four points in the first 6 minutes of the game, shot 29.3 percent in the first half and 33.3 for the game. Toronto had a remarkable 36 assists on 41 field goals.
Notes: Ben Wallace (sore ankle), who didn’t play down the stretch Thursday in the Bulls’ victory against Detroit, started Saturday and played 18 minutes. He was benched along with the rest of the starters in the third quarter and didn’t return.