The Bulls lost Luol Deng to injury, their composure to pressure and yet another chance to post their first road victory of December in a dismal 90-77 loss Friday to the Heat.
"It's tough to win when you're not doing anything well," guard Ben Gordon said.
It's also tough to dispute that logic, which was more on the mark than almost anything Gordon and the Bulls offered offensively in their second-lowest scoring output this season.
Gordon shot 6 of 16. Derrick Rose went 3 of 14 with five turnovers. Larry Hughes clanked 9 of 14 shots.
The Bulls shot 36.9 percent, scored just 32 second-half points and finished with more turnovers than assists in their seventh straight road loss.
Perhaps more painful, though, was seeing Deng limping noticeably on a sprained left ankle in the locker room, crutches resting in his locker.
At a time when the Bulls already are without Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich—and desperately need Deng to jump-start his season—the fifth-year forward instead left at the 7-minute-52-second mark of the third quarter after Joel Anthony rolled into his leg.
The outlook isn't good.
"I don't want to put a date on it, but it might be two weeks, maybe more," Deng said. "There was nothing on the X-rays. My ankle was just swollen. I will get an MRI and see. What are you going to do?"
Beforehand, coach Vinny Del Negro was blunt on Deng's struggles ("He has to do a better job at being aggressive at both ends") and disputed a question about whether leaving the middle open for Rose to drive was affecting Deng.
"I wouldn't say [the middle is] off limits," Del Negro said. "We run sets for Luol. Some games he has been more aggressive than others. The scoring will come. He's too good a player."
Deng's injury makes it a moot point for at least the short term. Now, with games Saturday at Atlanta and Monday at New Jersey, the focus shifts to seeing if the Bulls can avoid a winless month of road games.
Trailing 73-71 with 8:06 remaining, the Bulls surrendered a 13-2 run, scoring only on a Joakim Noah tip-in during a brutal 3:30 stretch of forced shots, porous defense and superfluous complaining to officials.
"You could say that," Gordon said, when asked if the Bulls lost their composure. "We consistently made bad plays in crucial situations."
Rose missed his first five shots and looked positively pedestrian in the second half, attempting just two shots. The rookie has been such a beacon of consistency this season that games like this stand out even more.
"I was thinking too much," he said. "When I miss layups, that's what I do. I let it affect me. I was trying to be aggressive and attack. My shots just weren't falling for me."
They weren't falling for many Bulls, who wasted a decent defensive performance on Dwyane Wade, the league's leading scorer. Wade scored 28 points, but the Bulls trapped effectively and made him work.
"We just couldn't get anything going offensively," Del Negro said. "We didn't execute well."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times