While the slumping Chicago Bulls still sit comfortably in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they didn't look anything like a contender their last time out.
Things aren't about to get any easier with a visit to the Bay.
The Bulls look to snap their longest road losing streak in three seasons Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, who have dominated this series at home.
Averaging 92.1 points to rank 29th in the league, Chicago (35-29) has been limited to an even uglier 81.4 during a five-game skid in opposing arenas. The Bulls appeared to hit rock bottom Wednesday in a 121-79 rout at Sacramento, dropping to 6-11 since Feb. 4.
Chicago, which hasn't lost six straight on the road since Feb. 22-March 17, 2010, was atop the Central Division and 2 1/2 games out of first place in the East before sputtering. It's now tied for fifth with Boston and Atlanta, but seems assured of making the playoffs with a 10 1/2-game lead over ninth-place Toronto.
"Our level of intensity was very poor. Our readiness to play was very poor," said coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team committed 17 turnovers and only forced five. "But I'm probably most disappointed in me. It's my job to have them ready. We can't come out like that, that's on me. I have to drive (them) harder and I will."
The Bulls shot 38.6 percent - the fourth straight game it was under 39.0. In addition to Derrick Rose's season-long absence, Chicago continues to play without forward Taj Gibson (knee) and veteran guards Richard Hamilton (back) and Kirk Hinrich (foot).
"I think we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and understand that we're not competing the way that we're supposed to be competing. Got a lot of guys out, the margin for error is very small," Joakim Noah told the team's official website.
"It's no time to make excuses. We need to find a way to bounce back. We just have to move on fast and get ready for Golden State. They are a lot better team than (the Kings)."
While the Bulls handily got by the Warriors 103-87 on Jan. 25 behind Hinrich's season-high 25 points, wins haven't been easy to come by at Golden State. Chicago has dropped 11 of 13 road meetings in the series, including the last three by an average of 12.0 points.
The Warriors (37-29) struggled through a brutal 3-10 stretch but have since won four of six to get back on track. Two nights after blowing out New York 92-63, Golden State beat Detroit 105-97 on Wednesday.
Stephen Curry led the way with 31 points and eight assists and David Lee posted his NBA-leading 43rd double-double with 20 points and 15 boards.
Winners of 10 of 13 at home, the Warriors sit in sixth place in the West and are hoping to make their first postseason appearance since 2006-07.
"I've been on a lot of teams where you're waiting for the season to be over," said Lee, averaging 21.0 points over his last five matchups versus Chicago. "It doesn't matter what else is going on because you're not in any kind of race. That's why this time of year is exciting and we're going to make the most of it."
Curry has averaged 23.3 points, 8.0 assists and 7.6 rebounds during Golden State's home winning streak over the Bulls. He's also gone 8 for 15 from 3-point range.
Chicago's Nate Robinson, who spent last season with the Warriors, had 22 points against them in January. He's scored 19 in each of the last two contests.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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