In other Bulls news ...
Nearing the end of the long NBA season, injuries to Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson are taking their toll on the Bulls. They're 7-11 since Feb. 1, losing five of their last eight games. They've also lost their last four road games. The Bulls, who once had the league's best road record at 13-6, are now 17-14 on the road.
Hamilton is not on the road trip and Hinrich and Gibson are day-to-day as the Bulls prepare to face the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena. The signs of wear-and-tear as the Bulls try to make up for their absences is showing. Nate Robinson is shooting 25 percent on three-pointers (15-of-16) in his last 13 games after he had made 56 percent (19-of-34) in his previous seven games. Luol Deng is shooting 38 percent from the field in his last 22 games after shooting 44 percent in his first 40 games.
''We're in a little bit of a funk,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''We've got to get the energy back into it. We have to adjust faster. We have to adapt to change quicker. So when someone's out, the next guy has to step in and we have to be able to function well. That part we have to do better.''
The Bulls have fallen into a habit of falling behind early, especially against quality teams. The Lakers hit five of their first six shots against the Bulls on Sunday. The Jazz hit their first five shots. The Spurs led the Bulls by nine points in the first quarter. The Nets led by 11 in the first quarter. The Thuder led by 10 in the first quarter.
Thibodeau could not pinpoint any particular factor in the slow starts and the opponents' hot shooting early. But it's still an issue he can't ignore.
''I am concerned about teams getting off to good starts, because in the NBA, you give a player confidence early it's very hard to slow him down,'' he said. ''We have to start better. We have to start with more energy and we have to close games better.''
Finishing strong goes hand-in-hand with starting slowly. With a depleted roster after 63 regular-season games, it appears the Bulls are using up precious energy recovering from slow starts and don't have enough gas in the tank at the end.
''Part of it is where we are in the season,'' Thibodeau said. ''You have to battle through things. I want us to be mentally tough when we face adversity. We can work through things and we have to find ways to win and we have to get the job done.''