Sunday Bulls Update: Streaky

The Bulls coming out of the pre-game huddle, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Hey, the Bulls were on a 3 game winning streak! Up until the they got spanked last night by the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls had been on a nice little run. They started the week on Sunday with a convincing 117-101 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, beat the Houston Rockets on Monday, 125-120, and took care of the Charlotte Hornets, 123-110, on Friday. The Bulls finally ran out of steam last night against the Lakers, ending their streak with a 101-90 loss to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Lebron and Davis were poetry in motion, carving up the Bulls defense with the pick-and-roll throughout the first half, building an insurmountable 63-33 lead.

The three game winning streak was the first for the Bulls since February of 2019. That’s nearly 2 years of not being able to win 3 games in a row! The wins are really helping the confidence of this young team. You can see that the Bulls are playing with some pride. They expect to be in every game. They expect to have a chance to win, and when they find themselves in a big hole, they regroup and try to dig their way out of it. That’s what happened in the second half of the loss to the Lakers; the Bulls tried desperately to dig their way out of the 30 point half-time deficit. They were able to claw back to within 10 or 11 points of the Lakers, but were unable to get all the way back against the defending champs.

That’s all I really want to say about the loss. The Bulls had a bad first half of basketball that they couldn’t overcome. The 3 game winning streak, on the other hand, was a thing of beauty. The offensive ball movement that the Bulls displayed was outstanding. Completely unselfish, guys making the extra pass to open teammates on the perimeter, or cutters in the paint. It was all about easy buckets during those three games. 32 assists against the Mavs, 23 against Houston, 33 in the game with the Hornets. The Bulls have figured out that if they are going to beat teams, it’s going to have to be a team effort. They don’t have the talent to win on the strength of individual performance alone, the entire team has to be, to paraphrase Billy Donovan, rowing the boat in the same direction.

It wasn’t just the assists that were eye popping. Each win had at least five players scoring in double digits for the Bulls. Everyone who played had a chance to contribute. During the stretch, Patrick Williams missed a game with a minor injury, Wendell Carter Jr and Otto Porter Jr missed a couple games also with minor injury concerns, but it didn’t seem to slow the Bulls offense down. The absences gave other players a chance to shine. Tomas Satoransky, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Chandler Hutchison, are all back from their Covid exile, giving Billy Donovan a full roster to work with.

Thadd Young beats the 1st half buzzer with a nifty lay up during the Bulls win over the Hornets.

Instead of trying to play his entire bench in one game, Donovan has been mixing and matching the last couple guys in the rotation on a game to game basis. That means Arch might play in one game while Denzel sits, and then Denzel will play the next game while Arch sits. It’s nice to see the head coach developing all 15 guys on his roster without letting the play on the court suffer. By doing this every player knows that they have some kind of value, and that Donovan can and will call on them to play at any given time, they need to stay ready. Even Cristiano Felicio got some minutes in the loss to the Lakers when Daniel Gafford and Thaddeus Young picked up some early foul trouble.

The Bulls are now 7-9 this season, and are ranked 9th in the Eastern Conference. They are only 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 6th seed. If the season were to end today they would be one of the teams entered into the “play-in tournament” for the playoffs. I know it’s too early to seriously think about the playoffs, but this season, it feels like a very real possibility.

There is a different “vibe” to this Bulls team. I know I say that in nearly every post I write, but it’s so obvious that it’s hard not to mention it. The confidence and intensity with which they play has only grown in the last couple of weeks as the wins have started to modestly pile up. Zach LaVine and Coby White haven’t had to force their offense in order to keep the Bulls in games. The turnovers, while still high, haven’t hurt the Bulls as much as they have in the past, especially from a confidence stand point. Now the team is capable of fighting through those little in-game moments of adversity, instead of folding anytime their opponent goes on a mini run. The mix of young players and veteran leadership, along with a competent coaching staff, has turned the outlook of the Bulls around. If they come back from this Laker loss and play the way they did during their 3 game streak, the Bulls could be headed to the playoffs this season.

Coming up this week, the Bulls finally get their first crack at the Boston Celtics on Monday, travel to Memphis for a game against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, and finish out the week back home on Saturday with a rematch against the Portland Trailblazers. It’s exciting to know that this team is capable of winning every single one of those games. Maybe we’ll have another 3 game win streak to talk about next Sunday. Until we do, thanks for reading and Go Bulls!