When they won three straight games following the All-Star break, the Chicago Bulls appeared poised to move up the Eastern Conference standings. Back-to-back losses have since shown they have more work to do.
Chicago looks to avoid its second three-game losing streak this month when it faces the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night at the United Center.
The Bulls (32-27) - currently in fifth place in the East - opened the season’s second half with wins over Atlanta, Cleveland and Washington before a two-point loss Sunday at Detroit.
The following night, Chicago played its fourth game in five days and could not sustain its energy in a 94-87 defeat to visiting Orlando.
Ben Gordon and Luol Deng were the only consistent scorers for the Bulls with 32 and 23 points, respectively. Gordon and Deng combined to shoot 19 of 38 from the field, while their teammates were a disappointing 13-for-43 (30 percent).
Forward P.J. Brown had an especially rough night, managing just one point and going 0-for-7 from the floor after he scored a season-high 19 points Sunday.
“It’s frustrating. We have to get a consistent style all the time,” Gordon said. “We didn’t have energy all the way through.”
The defeat dropped the Bulls to 22-8 at home, where they have lost consecutive games only once this season - Jan. 8 and 11 to Houston and New Jersey.
“There are a lot of athletic teams in the league, and Orlando is definitely one of them,” Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich told the team’s official Web site. “But this is the NBA. You’re going to face length and athleticism a lot of nights. We just didn’t do a very good job of playing on either end, especially defensively.”
Golden State (26-32) opened an important five-game road trip Tuesday with a 122-101 loss to Milwaukee. Monta Ellis scored 17 points and Al Harrington added 15 for the Warriors, losers of three straight overall and 11 of 13 on the road.
Golden State, which dropped a season-high four in a row from Nov. 29-Dec. 5, is in danger of missing the playoffs for the 13th straight season.
“We’ve got to keep pushing and staying positive,” said Golden State’s Jason Richardson, whose team also faces New York, Washington and Detroit on this trip. “We’ve still got a chance.”
Second-year forward Josh Powell was injured late in Tuesday’s loss, when he dove for a loose ball and slid headfirst into the scorer’s table. He was immobilized on a stretcher after the game and transported to St. Luke’s Hospital for X-rays and observation.
The Warriors have been one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams all season, but their problems have been even greater on the road, where they are 6-22 and allowing 112.7 points per game.
Starting guard Stephen Jackson missed Tuesday’s game due to a fractured toe, but could play Wednesday. He has played with pain in his left foot for much of this season.
Jackson made two clutch free throws in overtime and disrupted Gordon’s potential game-winning shot in Golden State’s 123-121 home victory over the Bulls on Feb. 9.
Chicago has won five in a row at home against the Warriors since an 84-78 loss on Feb. 26, 2001.