Skiles benches Bulls starters in debacle

On a cold Minneapolis night in November 2001, Tim Floyd pulled all five Bulls starters, Charles Oakley criticized the move afterward as only he could and Jerry Krause levied a $50,000 fine on Oakley.

Coach Scott Skiles pulled the same, rarely seen maneuver Saturday night as a feisty United Center crowd reprised the "Kobe! Kobe!" chant with more gusto and unison.

But the biggest offense was the Bulls' play.

The Bulls' surprisingly woeful 1-5 start sank to new depths in a 101-71 loss to the Raptors.

And Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and Luol Deng had a nice view of the proceedings, exiting en masse like a line change in hockey at 9 minute 35 seconds of the third quarter.

None of those starters saw the court again.

"I never want to do that on a night when the boobirds are already out," Skiles said. "I don't like to embarrass the group like that. I thought I'd take a gamble right there to try to find a catalyst.

"Then it got so far out of hand so quickly that I would hate for somebody to come back in the game and get injured."

An 11-1 Raptors run to open the second half in which the Bulls repeatedly turned the ball over or failed to sprint back on defense forced Skiles' hand.

In came Thabo Sefolosha, Andres Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Chris Duhon and Viktor Khryapa. Sefolosha promptly committed one of the Bulls' 20 turnovers, and Raptors guard Anthony Parker buried a three-pointer at the other end to continue a 26-3 run.

"Coaches make decisions who plays and who don't," Wallace said. "As professionals, we have to live with that.

"Those guys who came in the game work just as hard as the starters, so they deserve an opportunity too. All we can do is sit on the sideline and cheer for them."

The Raptors, who shot 75 percent in the third quarter, outscored the Bulls 36-13 in the period. The crowd of 22,467 booed lustily as the quarter ended.

So much for any momentum Thursday night's stirring victory over the Pistons might have created.

"I'm sure if you asked anybody in this locker room, everybody was confident that win against Detroit was going to start the train rolling," Hinrich said.

"We're frustrated, embarrassed. Use whatever word you want. We're at a crossroad where it can't get much worse."

Hinrich missed all six of his shots and committed two turnovers, including one third-quarter pass that he threw cross-court with one hand and across his body.

Needless to say, a Raptor stole it.

"I haven't been playing very well," said Hinrich, who wore a splint to protect a sprained ligament on the knuckle between his index and middle fingers on his left hand afterward.

Skiles pulled Hinrich at the 6:44 mark of the first quarter.

"Our point guard play has not been good enough," Skiles said simply.

Deng shot 2-for-8, committed two turnovers and failed to score in double figures for the second time in six games after doing so just four times in 82 games last season.

"Since I've been in the NBA, this is the lowest I've felt," Deng said.

The Bulls rallied late to shoot 33.3 percent overall.

Only Nocioni, who led the Bulls with 20 points, showed a pulse.

Carlos Delfino's 16 points topped the Raptors, who led by as many as 39. Chris Bosh added 14.

The Bulls next play six straight road games. They will bring plenty of baggage.

"I can't remember it being that bad even since I've been here," said Hinrich, who won 23 games his rookie season.

"I don't know what to say about it, really. Frustration is at an all-time high. It's important we stick together and try to find a way out of this."