Twelve days ago, the passion of Scott Skiles and the hustle and effectiveness of Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams sparked an impressive victory over the Bucks in their debut as Bulls.
That game feels like a distant memory.
Not only is Scottie Pippen out for at least six weeks after Friday's arthroscopic knee surgery, Skiles' passion now is interspersed with plenty of perplexed looks.
Undermanned for four quarters and overwhelmed for three, the Bulls rallied to follow their recent script of tough losses, falling 109-95 to the Bucks for the 12th straight time at the Bradley Center.
Michael Redd's 30 points and Damon Jones' 22 off the bench sent the Bulls to their fourth straight loss since that dazzling debut of new coach and new players.
Milwaukee hit 12 of its first 16 shots and led by double figures more often than not until a late third-quarter Bulls run.
Then, Kirk Hinrich scored eight of his season-high 17 points in a 15-1 run that bridged the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. By the time Marcus Fizer hit one of two free throws with 10 minutes 2 seconds remaining, all of a 17-point deficit had been erased and the Bulls led 81-80.
But Milwaukee broke open an 87-87 tie with an 8-0 run to put the game away.
Dan Gadzuric's dunk off an offensive rebound kick-started the spurt. On the next possession, Jamal Crawford's deep three-pointer came just after the 24-second shot clock expired. Jones then waltzed inside for a layup and Crawford followed with an ill-advised three-pointer that banked wildly off the backboard.
The Bulls dressed just 10 players and Chris Jefferies didn't play. Eddie Robinson logged just three minutes. Asked about Robinson's inactivity, Skiles didn't mince words.
"He was slow defensively," Skiles said. "I have to set the tone that if you're not out there playing hard defensively, there has to be a consequence."
Said Robinson: "He's the coach. But, yeah, I was surprised."
Milwaukee turned 20 Bulls turnovers into 21 points and exploited poor transition defense for 22 fast-break points.
"Part of our fatigue is some of our guys aren't used to practicing hard," Skiles said bluntly. "From a conditioning standpoint, we're not where we need to be. We have to step up and learn how to work hard.
"I wasn't pleased with much of anything except our fight to come back. I'm concerned about why, with playing on Monday and Friday, we came out walking in mud."
Fizer, shooting often in a rare playing opportunity, led the Bulls with 19 points. Kendall Gill added 18. Eddy Curry scored 12 on only eight shots, an indication of the Bulls' rushed shot selection.
"I was frustrated a long time ago, but it's becoming unbearable," Gill said. "I'm tired of excuses."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times