CHICAGO - As he stood in Chicago's United Center dressing room moments after his team was badly beaten by the 76ers in its first game of the playoffs without Derrick Rose on Tuesday night, forward Luol Deng clearly was tired of answering questions about Rose.
"We're not going to make any excuses," Deng said. "We've got enough guys here. We're good enough. We just did not show up in the second half."
Anyone who saw the Sixers even their best-of-seven playoff series with the Bulls at one game apiece won't argue with Deng. Not after seeing the Sixers lead by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter.
Facing the best defensive team in the NBA, the Sixers made 64.3 percent of their shots from the field in the second half and connected on 59 percent of their field goals overall - the most by any Chicago opponent this season - in a 109-92 rout.
The top seed in the East, the Bulls were given every opportunity to blame the defeat on the absence of Rose, who is out for the season after suffering a torn left anterior cruciate ligament against the Sixers in Game 1. But they didn't make any excuses.
Rose, his left leg in a massive black brace, hobbled to mid-court to present the honorary game ball at the start of Game 2. But with about four minutes remaining in the game - one that featured a number of high-flying dunks by Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams in a laugher of a second quarter - many of the 22,067 fans were racing toward the exits of the cavernous building.
"We know we can play better than we did today," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "It's disappointing, but we live to fight another day. There's a lot of basketball to be played."
Before Game 2, Sixers coach Doug Collins responded to a question regarding the Bulls without Rose by asking whether the Sixers are the favorites now. Collins pointed out that the Bulls, before Tuesday, had gone 18-9 in 27 games this season without Rose.
And while none of the players in the solemn Bulls locker room were taking the Sixers for granted, they still sounded confident that if they return to the rebounding (they led the league in that category, too) and defensive play that has been their trademark, they can regain control of the series.
"The Sixers are really good, but it's about us," Noah said. "If they beat us, and we're fighting, and we're doing everything that we've got to do, then give it to them. But we know we're better than we were today."
Deng, who finished with eight points on 3-for-12 shooting, also said things will be different Friday.
"It's got to be," Deng said. "It is a series. Game 3 is going to be different. We've got a lot of competitors in this room. There was no excuse because they beat us tonight. But we are better than we showed. We're together. Tonight we didn't defend together, but we'll be better next game."