As I’ve been saying for weeks, my preseason pick to win the Eastern Conference is a tad bit more trustworthy on the road than they are at home. The Chicago Bulls went into the Oracle Arena, where Golden State had posted an NBA best 21-1 home record, and defeated them by a final of 113-111 in OT.
Derrick Rose, who went 12-32 prior to his final shot, sank in a midrange jumper with 8.4 seconds left in the overtime period. He had struggled shooting all game and finished 13-of-33 from the field, but made it when it counted most. Rose finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and a glaring 11 turnovers.
Chicago was playing without Jimmy Butler, who has been phenomenal all year, due to an illness. They did get excellent production from what’s looking like one of the most underrated acquisitions during the offseason, in Pau Gasol. He contributed 18 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists.
Noah just recently returned from an injury of his own and posted similar numbers to Gasol – he added 18 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
In support of my pick, I’ve been looking at many wins this season as a sign of things to come from the momentous standpoint. But so far, it hasn’t manifested into continued success for this team on a consistent basis.
After an impressive seven-game winning streak that included victories over the Grizzlies, Raptors and Wizards, the Bulls fell at home to the struggling Nets. On January 5th, they defeated the Rockets to extend their win streak to a modest three games, but then fell to the Jazz at home.
Furthermore, they lost in Cleveland by 14, and then beat San Antonio by 23 points at home, and traveled to Dallas to win by four. Next game? They lost to another struggling team in the Miami Heat by 12 points., once again at home.
So you get the picture – this Bulls team has been wildly erratic this season.
A main reason for their struggles have come because of what’s transpiring on the defensive end. They’re tied for eleventh in the league (with six teams) giving up 99.2 points per game. In fact, they’ve given up 100 points or more in seven of their last 11 games. This is NOT Bulls basketball.
The driving factor in this atrocity is injuries. It’s difficult to develop synergy on both ends of the floor when guys are missing games and there are moving pieces. Noah ranks sixth among centers in defensive plus minus, so this paints a clear image as to why they may have struggled on that end this year. Hopefully for this team, his health issues are behind him.
For the past few seasons, our main questions revolved around the fact that they were devoid of depth and scoring. With the additions of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, the emergence of Jimmy Butler, combined with the return of their former-MVP, that thought has been eradicated.
Their first responsibility is to become a better team at home because that below .500 record will derail all their hopes of becoming elite.
With all the trepidation surrounding the Bulls and their injuries, they somehow manage to still be a force to be reckoned with in the East. If they can ever get healthy, we might be looking at an inexorable team.