LOS ANGELES — The team that began this season with championship expectations is gone.
In its place, at least in yesterday’s first game without Derrick Rose and the continued absence of Jimmy Butler, is a defenseless team that allowed the Clippers to shoot 58.5 percent and romp to a 121-82 blowout in a matinee at the Staples Center.
It marked the largest margin of victory in the not-very proud history of the Clippers’ franchise. And it meant a three-game skid for the Bulls on their season-high, six-game trip.
“The whole game we were just terrible defensively,” Luol Deng said.
The Clippers led 65-52 at halftime and dropped a 7-0 run on the Bulls in the first 97 seconds of the third quarter for a 20-point lead that once grew to 42 points. The Clippers, led by Jared Dudley’s 21 points and 16 points and 17 assists from Chris Paul, fell just seven points shy of matching the most points allowed in the Tom Thibodeau era.
And Deng, who scored a game-high 22 points, didn’t mince words when addressing how the emotional fallout of losing Rose affected the Bulls on a somber Sunday.
“When something bad happens to your little brother or family, you put everything else aside,” Deng said. “As much as I love playing with him and how much better we are as a team with him, just hearing that he got hurt took the wind out of everyone. I’m not making excuses for this game. But as a human being, you just feel bad. That’s why everyone’s head is down.
“It’s not so much the fact we don’t believe in each other or aren’t going to fight. It’s just that that’s a good kid and he worked so hard. We’ve seen him be the first one at practice every day and the last to leave and encouraging everybody, coming back and making everyone believe we have the chance to do something special. When we take a hit like that, it’s hard.”
It’s not going to get any easier. Thibodeau said he spoke to Butler on Saturday and the starting shooting guard “still has a ways to go” to return from his turf toe. With Rose out indefinitely and possibly for the rest of the season, seldom-used players like Marquis Teague and Tony Snell prominently entered the rotation Sunday.
That wasn’t pretty either.
Teague missed all seven of his shots and had a turnover in 20 minutes. Snell logged a season-high 27:40 and, while scoring five points with two assists, struggled to defend the 3-point line. In that, he certainly wasn’t alone.
“When you don’t bring a defensive mindset, particularly on the road, you’re going to be in for a long night,” Thibodeau said.
Will it also be a long season? Just like last season, the Bulls are 6-6 after 12 games and facing life without Rose.
“We’re a little bit disjointed right now, took some hits,” Kirk Hinrich said. “We just have to stay together.”