Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has repeatedly stressed that his team should commit under 13 turnovers per game. However, the Bulls piled up 17 turnovers in Wednesday night's 98-82 loss to the Phildelphia 76ers and are averaging exactly that in their last three games.
The Sixers capitalized on the Bulls' miscues, scoring 29 points off of them and 21 in transition. In the third quarter, the Bulls committed six turnovers and were outscored 26-11. Philadelphia coach Doug Collins, who nearly accepted the Bulls' job in 2008, believed that his team's third-quarter effort was the difference in the game.
Impressively, the Sixers also allowed just nine third-quarter points to the Orlando Magic on Monday.
"I've always been a big third-quarter guy," Collins told reporters after the game. "From my TV days [with most recently TNT], I've seen teams come out to start third quarters and not warm up properly and all. And I just think if you can get a big hit in that first five or six minutes, it can change a whole game. So we've talked about that."
Similarly, Thibodeau preaches to his team that starting the third frame on a high note is crucial, especially the first five minutes. The Bulls were able to earn a 98-88 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday night despite producing 19 turnovers, although facing one of the league's best defensive teams in the Sixers presented a much tougher challenge, and they admittedly didn't respond well.
"It's one thing if you're playing great defense, you're rebounding and taking care of the ball and you miss shots. That's one thing," Thibodeau said. "But when you're turning the ball over, you're beating yourself. So that's something that we have to correct. That was the story of the game, basically: They turned us over and they got easy points off of it."
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who had a game-high-tying four turnovers, could not explain why his team struggled to take care of the ball on Wednesday. But, as usual, he feels the Bulls will only learn from their many errors.
"They're a very good defensive team, making it hard, being scrappy," he said.
The young, athletic Sixers rank first in the NBA in opponents' points allowed, surrendering just 86.1 per game. Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Lavoy Allen and Evan Turner had two steals apiece.
The Bulls were also outrebounded by the Sixers, 43-37, and allowed the home team to shoot almost 48 percent from the field and rack up 26 assists on 40 baskets.
"Our defense wasn't good and I thought our reaction to the ball was very poor," Thibodeau said. "They beat us to loose balls, second-effort plays."
No excuses: The Bulls were again without both Luol Deng (wrist) and Rip Hamilton (groin, thigh) on Wednesday, and players and coaches will admit they miss the team's second- and fourth-leading scorers, respectively. Although, don't expect Thibodeau's bunch to start using injuries as an excuse for their third loss in five games.
But how about the fact that the Bulls will be playing their fourth game in five nights Thursday against the New York Knicks in this compressed, 66-game regular season? That could be a viable excuse, right?
"Oh, no, not at all," Rose told the assembled media. "We're a good team. We know that all of us are in condition."
Added Thibodeau: "It shouldn't. We're a deep team."
Before Thursday's contest, Rose will be announced on TNT's pregame show as an Eastern Conference starting guard for this month's 2012 NBA All-Star game. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will join Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwight Howard in the East's starting lineup, with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Andrew Bynum starting for the Western Conference.
Butler's mark: Bulls rookie Jimmy Butler posted five points, four rebounds and two assists while knocking down the first three-pointer of his career in a season-high 19 minutes, 21 seconds of action.
The 6-foot-7 swingman has received more minutes in Deng's absence, and he has looked much more comfortable in the last two games.
Plenty of Bulls fans had believed that Butler wouldn't log many appearances this season, considering that the Bulls have an established rotation, but the early-season injuries have given him an opportunity and he's shown flashes of why the Bulls selected him in last June's draft to be the lone rookie on the team.