The Chicago Bulls ended their first half of the season with a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, pushing their win streak to four games. This was their first win over their divisional rivals and it was a huge one. Sans All-Star Jimmy Butler, the Bulls defeated the Cavs by a final score of 113-98.
This victory kept them ahead of Cleveland in the standings. Chicago currently sits at third in the Eastern Conference.
As I keep reiterating, this team has certainly looked more comfortable on the road than they do at home, as they are 15-11 in the United Center but much better away from there at 19-9.
Chicago has been ridden with injuries and a large degree of outside noise, but this latest win streak gives you the feeling that they may be turning the corner.
During this modest win-streak, the Bulls are averaging 105.5 points per game and only giving up a staggering 88 points per contest. This stretch mirrors what Chicago wants to do for the rest of the season. With the additions to their roster, the trepidations surrounding offensive scoring should be eradicated. This team has an adequate amount of weapons to put up huge numbers. But even more glaring is the defensive statistic. In the Tom Thibbodeau era, the Bulls became an exceptional defensive team. This year has been an aberration. If his team can keep this play up on both ends, they should be playing deep into the postseason.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Bulls will play a stretch of four-out-of-five games against non-playoff teams from a season ago. This will be an important test to see how locked in this team really is. Here’s a chance for Chicago to inch closer to Toronto, who sits 2.5 games ahead of them.
Furthermore, they’ve got a seven-game home stand coming up starting with the Suns on Saturday. Chicago’s psyche will also be tested in this regard because they are cognizant of how unenthused and mediocre they’ve looked in front of their home crowd this season.
Pau Gasol might be the most underrated signing of the NBA offseason. He is quietly having a sensational, MVP-caliber season, averaging 18.4 points per game on nearly 50% shooting. Gasol is also grabbing a career-high 12.1 rebounds per contest and has a PER of 22.89. And remember everyone called him soft? Well, you can also add that he’s matching his career best in the blocks category, averaging 2.1, which is outstanding.
Many people thought his skills were diminishing at the end of his Lakers tenure, but now he’s showing that it was just a product of the friction in the relationship with Mike D’Antoni.
Gasol had a game-winning putback off the Derrick Rose miss in the final seconds of the game down in Orlando. With Pau playing at such a high level, this team is even more dangerous.
Many basketball aficionados say that Gasol is one of the most skilled big-men of all-time. The basketball acumen and ability he brings, along with the championship pedigree is critical to the success of this team. Kobe Bryant would not have five rings had it not been for Pau Gasol. We also are fully aware of what Rose is capable of.
Are we witnessing the first Bulls championship season without Michael Jordan on the roster? A bevy of things must go right in order for that to happen, but it remains to be seen. One thing we do know is that Gasol needs to continue his dominance.