Chicago Bulls Need a Gut Check ASAP

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 26: Tobias Harris #15 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket past Carlos Boozer #5 and Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 26, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls filled a season-long gag reel in their 93-92 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.

The Bulls led 78-51 with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter. They mustered just 14 points over the game's final 14-plus minutes, while allowing 42 to a Bucks lineup laced with second-teamers.

Teams have been torched in the past by Milwaukee's starting backcourt—Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. They've even seen Mike Dunleavy catch fire from three-point land from time to time.

Not tonight, though. Milwaukee's three leading scorers combined for just 22 points on 8-of-24 shooting.

How did Chicago manage to blow this lead, then? They're probably still trying to figure that out. While five Milwaukee players scored in double figures, only one (Ersan Ilyasova, 18 points) scored more than 11 points.

While the Bucks bench largely erased this lead with 56 points, Chicago's bench managed just seven field goal attempts. Richard Hamilton looked like vintage Rip with 30 points for the game, but shot just 2-of-8 in the fourth-quarter collapse.

It's tough to hit the panic button this early in the season. Then again, it's tough to blow a 27-point lead with under 15 minutes left in the game.

The Bulls may not appear to be in serious danger with a 6-7 mark, but only one of those wins came against a team with a winning record (a 93-86 win over these same Bucks in Milwaukee on Saturday). Not to mention they've already lost to the New Orleans Hornets (3-9 entering Monday), Portland Trail Blazers (6-8) and Houston Rockets (6-7).

Coach Tom Thibodeau's team has played their typical stingy defense (93.4 points allowed per game). But they've struggled to find enough offense to win games. Luol Deng leads the team in scoring with a pedestrian 17.2 points per game. Chicago entered Monday's game with the second-worst three-point attack in the NBA (28.1) and 10th-worst field goal percentage (43.6).

This second-half collapse won't require a players only meeting. It might not even warrant a film session. Blowing that kind of lead tends to speak louder than any Thibodeau rant could.

Derrick Rose isn't returning soon. In fact, the club still doesn't know when that time will come.

The Dallas Mavericks will visit the United Center on Wednesday. If the game itself isn't a must win, then the first five minutes surely are in the minds of a very concerned fanbase.