COMMENTARY | I admit I was wrong about how the Bulls' West Coast swing would go.
I thought Tom Thibodeau's defensive preaching would be enough to get them a second win this weekend against either the Vinny Del Negro-led Los Angeles Clippers or the inconsistent Portland Trail Blazers.
But neither game went that way. The Clippers dominated the Bulls from the start of the game Saturday, even though the Bulls had two days off in between games, and Portland held the advantage for the entire game Sunday.
Saturday's game was a mismatch, although it did let the Eastern Conference know the Clippers are going to have to be reckoned with this season. They are apparently good enough to not be affected by Del Negro's coaching.
The Clippers have two superstars, and the Bulls have none. Luol Deng's All-Star appearance last season will be hard to repeat. Joakim Noah's impressive performance so far this season is not enough to overcome disadvantages if an opponent has both an inside and outside threat, as the Clippers do.
But the Portland game was a matter of energy. The Trail Blazers are not particularly disciplined yet, but they have a wealth of offensive talent, and the Bulls could not damper that. So Noah tried to personally will the Bulls team into an offensive outburst of its own. His 16 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists weren't enough to make up for the fast-paced Blazer attack.
Now the Bulls get another two days before playing Houston on Wednesday, and they are going to try to avoid a three-game losing streak. Thibodeau is not one to tolerate losing streaks of any kind, but he may not have the offensive firepower or defensive willpower on the team right now to determine a game's outcome.
I'm not sure why the Bulls aren't as good defensively as they have been the last two seasons. It's not just because of the absence of Derrick Rose; they played without him for much of last season and were able to put the brakes on almost every opponent they faced. Kirk Hinrich, playing in Rose's role for the time being, is as aggressive defensively as Rose was.
What they are missing defensively is backup center Omer Asik, who they will see Wednesday in Houston, but Asik didn't play enough to be the sole reason the Bulls are having defensive difficulty this season.
The Bulls are now 5-5. They are two games out of first in the Central Division behind Milwaukee. Things are turning for the Bulls. Somehow, they need to get straightened out.
Kent McDill has covered the Bulls for three different companies: for United Press International from 1985-88, for the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., from 1988-99 and currently for NBA.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title "100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die'' published by Triumph Books.