As the shock, anger and embarrassment multiply, so do the tough questions facing the Bulls.
Answers? Those are as elusive as the Bulls' third victory.
The Bulls trailed by as many as 14 Saturday at Madison Square Garden to a Knicks team that had lost eight straight and whose fans are chanting for coach Isiah Thomas' dismissal as well as booing Stephon Marbury for off-the-court distractions.
A spirited fourth-quarter rally evoked memories of recent Bulls teams with intensity and fight. Remember those?
But after tying the game with 4 minutes 10 seconds remaining, the Bulls failed to score on seven straight possessions as the Knicks escaped with an 85-78 victory.
The somber mood afterward did nothing to quiet questions about whether the coaching staff is running out of answers and if the players are running out of confidence.
"I don't look at life through the lens of self-doubt," a philosophical coach Scott Skiles said. "I never have. I have total belief in myself and my staff. We just have to stay with it and somehow find a way to make shots.
"I don't like that excuse from coaches because there's always something else you can do. However, we're in a stretch here where that would really be helpful."
Like in the final 4:10.
Kirk Hinrich, who shot 5 of 18, missed three jumpers, including a near-air ball on a three-pointer with 49 seconds left.
Ben Gordon, who shot 4 of 17 with five turnovers, missed one jumper and had the ball stolen by, ahem, noted defensive whiz Jamal Crawford.
Thabo Sefolosha, down to 28.8 percent shooting, missed two shots, including a wide-open 12-footer from the baseline with the Bulls down just 78-75.
The Bulls, who lowered their league-worst shooting percentage with 34.5 percent "accuracy" against the Knicks, didn't make a field goal in that final 4:10.
Andres Nocioni, manic in the fourth quarter and a monster throughout with 23 points and nine rebounds, made three free throws with 14.9 seconds left and the outcome decided. That ended a scoreless stretch of 3:55.
"We're not playing with confidence," Nocioni said. "Everybody is frustrated. This is our problem. In the fourth quarter, we had open shots and we were playing the Chicago Bulls way—tough defense, rebound the ball, run the floor. Then we just kept missing. We need to win right now."
As spirited as the Bulls looked in making their comeback, they looked equally awful early.
With Luol Deng sidelined again with a sore back, Tyrus Thomas re-entered the lineup. He struggled with foul trouble and 2-for-9 shooting.
The Bulls scored just 31 first-half points and started the second quarter with four straight turnovers, including one by Chris Duhon when he threw an inbounds pass directly to Fred Jones.
The Bulls finished with more turnovers than assists, 14 to 13.
"We're just not making shots," Ben Wallace said. "It's one of those things where we have to make a conscious effort to get to the basket."
Wallace has expressed similar sentiments before, and they have gone unheeded. But the Knicks' 42-19 advantage in free-throw attempts seems to suggest Wallace's view has merit.
Wallace flashed more energy and spirit with 12 rebounds, three steals and a block, even though the Knicks, led by Eddy Curry's 21 points, enjoyed a 30-22 advantage in the paint.
Wallace also ditched the headband he now is allowed to wear in the second half, wearing it around his left wrist. Given that Wallace openly defied a team rule here last season by trying to wear his then-forbidden headband, did he do so as a symbolic show of team unity?
"Nah," he said. "I just liked it on my wrist. But I don't like what's going on. We have to find a way out."
Can the Bulls?
"We better," Wallace said.
"Or I'm going to lose my daggone mind," he continued.
Similar sentiments of frustration were spoken in hushed tones afterward.
"I don't think anybody thinks the season is over, but we're definitely frustrated," Hinrich said. "There's only one way to go—up hopefully. This is an all-time high for frustration."
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