The last few games have been frustrating to watch if you’re a Bulls fan. A nail biter of a loss against the New Orleans Pelicans, and then a crushing defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, and suddenly the Bulls find themselves below .500 and asking a lot of questions.
I’ve been banging the drum for the talent on this team since the middle of the summer. The Bulls have as much talent on their roster as any NBA team, but they don’t seem to have the appropriate energy and focus to compliment that talent.
These two recent losses by the Bulls illustrate just where they sit at the table of the NBA. They are a Mid team.
All the talent in the world, but throughout the season we’ve seen a lack of focus on both ends of the court. Lazy turnovers committed, easy baskets allowed, boxouts missed, rebounds lost, the lack of attention to detail is the biggest reason the Bulls have been losing close games.
My mantra is: Great teams don’t play “clutch” minutes. The idea being that a great team beats their opponent in the first 3 and a half quarters of the game and doesn’t rely on last second buzzer beaters to win games. The Bulls, over the last couple seasons, have been playing a lot of “clutch” minutes. Last season, the Bulls were winning those close games, this season, not so much. The Bulls are 0-6 in clutch games (clutch games defined as being decided in the last 5 minutes of the game with a scoring margin of 5 points or less), and have the worst record in the NBA in that category.
Losses breed division. We’re starting to see fans, media members, players, and coaches, looking around for a scapegoat. Anger at the poor officiating, disappointment in roster construction, disagreement with coaching decisions, injuries, the excuses and finger pointing have begun in earnest.
There is no need to blame anyone, or search for excuses. It’s still early in the season, and there is plenty of time to turn things around. What needs to happen, is the Bulls need to play with focus and energy for the entire 48 minutes of a game. Every possession needs to be valued both on offense and defense. The Bulls can’t take plays off. Hell, they can’t take games off.
What happened against Denver should NEVER happen. The Bulls had three days before their game against the Nuggets. Three days to rest, lick their wounds, refocus, and plan. From the jump they looked lethargic and absent. The Nuggets ran away with the game. You can’t have that kind of effort on 3 days rest.
With a couple more days of rest under their belts, the Bulls get a second crack at the New Orleans Pelicans tonight. The game is in New Orleans, but this is the 2nd night of a back-to-back for the Pels, and the Bulls have had a couple days of rest. This SHOULD be a schedule victory for the Bulls. SHOULD be.
If the Bulls do lose tonight, how many more serious questions will start to be asked of players, coaching staff, and management?
This is a season in which the Bulls are expected to “take the next step”. The competition in the Eastern Conference is better than it has been in a long time, and we’re seeing that the Bulls are struggling with the mental aspect of the game. Focus and energy is what separates the many talented teams in the NBA. Right now, in a season with high expectations, the Bulls are sitting Mid. They have to do better. They can do better.
Until they do, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!