Nikola Mirotic said he simply forgot about the Friday evening walk-through he missed, a mistake for which coach Fred Hoiberg said the third-year forward will be fined.
Then the Bulls took the United Center floor looking like they forgot they had a game.
For the second straight night, the Bucks absolutely destroyed the Bulls in an embarrassing display highlighting a massive disparity in athleticism and effort. This time, there was no fourth-quarter comeback to offer meaningless window dressing and the Bulls absorbed a 95-69 loss, drawing boos on several occasions.
“Nobody wants to hear no boos,” said Jimmy Butler, who scored a season-low seven points on 3-for-14 shooting. “We’ll be better next game.”
It’s the fewest points the Bulls have scored since their April 2014 elimination game against the Wizards and their 30.4 percent shooting marked a season-low.
That’s three straight losses and six in eight for a team that sits at .500 but has the feel of one in a free fall.
“Collectively, we have to find a way out of it,” Hoiberg said. “We have to have our best practice of the year (Sunday). We have to stay together through this rough patch. The only way we know how is to work. I still believe in these guys.”
Making matters worse, Taj Gibson played just 2 minutes, 27 seconds in the second half because he suffered a right hip contusion that knocked him from the game. And still Mirotic didn’t get in, drawing his second straight benching by coach’s decision.
Honest mistake or not, it’s definitely not a good look to miss a team walk-through the day after not playing by coach’s decision for the first time in your three-year NBA career. Especially when, according to a source, Mirotic skipped Thursday’s team bus ride home from Milwaukee. That’s typically allowed for the short trip but still shows a player who needed to clear his head.
“It has been difficult,” Mirotic said. “It’s the first time in my career that this (benching) is happening. But it’s the coach’s decision. So I have to respect that.”
Hoiberg said Mirotic was the first person getting up shots and working out Friday morning and that he also met with the third-year forward.
“He was as good as he can be in a situation like that,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously, any competitor isn’t going to be happy when you get taken out of a lineup. But I talked to him about keeping himself ready.”
Mirotic vowed to do that.
“I apologized to my teammates and coach and we move on. I’m not that kind of guy (to cause waves),” Mirotic said. “Even if things aren’t how I would like them to be, I’m very professional. It’s not my first year here. Those guys respect me. I respect them. I will never do something like that. It’s just I forgot. (Expletive) happens.”
Plenty of expletive happened as the Bucks upped their largest lead from 27 points on Thursday to 30 on Friday and led for the final 46:15 after leading the entire way on Thursday.
After Hoiberg said the Bulls needed to play with energy for 48 minutes, they fell behind by 19 points in the first quarter. Later, they committed a backcourt violation and an inbounds violation and one Rajon Rondo turnover that led to a Jabari Parker fast-break dunk that had Hoiberg punching a ball in frustration.
“It starts with communication. We’ve taken a step back in that area,” Hoiberg said. “We have to get back to talking to each other, getting in our coverages early.
“We’re all accountable. It starts with me. I have to get us playing more consistently.”
Given how much Friday’s loss resembled Thursday’s, it’s troublesome how few adjustments were made and how poorly the game plan was executed.
“We’re not out there freestyling. We just have to pay attention more,” said Butler, who downplayed the need for a team meeting but agreed on-court communication has lacked. “We’re all we got. If we don’t believe in ourselves and our teammates, it can get bad pretty fast.”