Amid a losing streak that reached eight games Wednesday night, the Bulls hit new heights in a 101-97 loss against Seattle. New heights, that is, when it comes to exasperating fans with a starting lineup that wilts under the lights at the United Center.
The Bulls bombed against a team that fired its coach, Bob Weiss, Tuesday and promoted assistant Bob Hill to replace him. Coming in, the Sonics were 4-6 in their last 10 games.
But it was the Bulls who had no sense of chemistry. Things got so bad, coach Scott Skiles opted to shake up starters Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Michael Sweetney in the second half.
With 7 minutes 47 seconds left in the third quarter, Skiles turned to reserves Othella Harrington, Darius Songaila, Eric Piatkowski, Jannero Pargo and Eddie Basden. Even the rarely used Malik Allen saw action against the Sonics.
"We were clearly not going to win staying with the way that was going," Skiles said. "We had very little life. At that point, you need to mix it up."
All played a role in chipping away at a 14-point deficit in front of a crowd of 19,418.
"They gave [the starters] something to feed off of," Duhon said.
Playing a tune with a ring all too familiar, however, the Bulls came up short despite closing the deficit to two points with less than a minute left thanks to back-to-back three-pointers by Songaila and Gordon, who led the Bulls with 21 points. Songaila added 20.
Shooting 68.8 percent from the free-throw line came back to haunt the Bulls. Free throws have been an issue for the team all season. Harrington missed three in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls were missing Tyson Chandler, whom Skiles doesn't expect to return for Friday night's game at Milwaukee or Saturday night's game against Memphis. Chandler sprained his right ankle against the Bucks on Monday night. An MRI didn't show anything more serious, Skiles said, but he expects him to miss at least a week. Chandler had a protective boot on Wednesday.
Sweetney started in Chandler's place but played only 11 minutes and didn't score.
Hinrich started the game aggressively, attacking the basket more and drawing fouls. He scored 16 points, a big push upward from the three points he scored against the Bucks.
Following through on his promise Tuesday to shake up his lineup, Hill started Vladimir Radmanovic and Johan Petro, both of whom had fallen out of favor with Weiss. The Sonics also announced they had waived former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves, who averaged 4.1 points in 19 games.
Radmanovic scored 14 points and Petro six with nine rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen scored 21 and 20 points, respectively, for Seattle.