WASHINGTON – The bodies continued piling up in the training room, and the losses continued building up on the court.
Not a good combination for the once again slumping Bulls on Wednesday.
Not only did they lose to the suddenly red-hot Washington Wizards, 117-96, but likely added another player to the inactive list, as Taj Gibson re-injured his right hamstring and couldn’t answer the bell for the second half.
With the Bulls loss – their third over their last four games – they can at least be thankful that they’re in the Eastern Conference, as they stayed tied for that No. 8 spot in the playoff seedings thanks to Detroit losing to Atlanta.
That doesn’t change the fact that with just 16 games left, it would seem that the pressure would be building, especially on the likes of the new face of the franchise in Jimmy Butler, but the two-time All-Star didn’t necessarily see it that way.
“Not a lot of pressure,’’ Butler said of getting his team into postseason play. “I just think that I want to win. I think if you say pressure that means that I’m worried about other people and what they think when I know what I bring to the table. I know what I’m capable of. I just have to do whatever I can to help the team win. It’s just doing what I’m supposed to do.’’
He and his teammates will have to do it short-handed, especially in the frontcourt, with Gibson expected to be sidelined at least a few games, Pau Gasol (right knee) still at least a few games from returning, and of course Joakim Noah (shoulder) already lost after season-ending shoulder surgery.
“We’re fighting, but it’s no excuses,’’ Derrick Rose said of the current predicament the team find itself in. “The challenge is pretty tough right now, but that’s why we’re pros.’’
They didn’t resemble pros against the Wizards.
According to coach Fred Hoiberg, the staff spent two days preaching that they needed to focus on Washington’s transition game and doing whatever it took to slow it down. Then the Bulls went out and allowed 32 first-quarter points with 14 of those points coming in the paint and eight coming off the fast break.
“It’s disappointing,’’ Hoiberg said. “We go into these games with the biggest key if we want to have a chance to win this game was obviously getting back in transition. That’s all we talked about the last couple days, and didn’t get back, didn’t execute. They drove it right down our throats. They either got to the rim or were able to spray it out for open shots, and that was the game.’’
At least the players had no problem pointing the finger right where it needed to be pointed.
“We knew it was coming,’’ Doug McDermott said of the Wizards’ transition game. “We just weren’t able to execute it. That’s on us, not on [Hoiberg].
“Every game is like a playoff game for us right now. They’re all so important. We gotta come out with urgency. We didn’t do that [Wednesday night]. That’s on us.’’
It didn’t help that Rose and Butler were outscored by John Wall and Bradley Beal 49-33, while Wall recorded a triple-double with 29 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, as well as finishing with a plus-38 in the plus/minus category.
And while the Bulls now play four-straight home games, they will do so having to play small.
“Small ball,’’ Rose said of what needs to be done over the next few days. “We gotta find ways to manipulate the game.’’