When a team acquires a two-time All-Star and four possible rotation players at the trade deadline, that team gets a grace period. It takes time to build chemistry, especially in the midst of a competitive schedule. The Bulls were on a four-game Western Conference road trip when Nikola Vucevic and Co. joined the club. Not to mention, they were dealing with a banged-up Zach LaVine for the first time this season. So to see them go winless in their first four games after the deadline shouldn’t have come as a major shock nor a major concern.
In fact, the team did show progress, even in the midst of a losing effort. Matchups against the Suns and Jazz were particularly promising, as the Bulls began to run the offense through their new All-Star big man and (finally) limit their self-inflicted wounds. The strides made in those games surely helped the team pull off an impressive win over the Brooklyn Nets. Their 115-107 victory could easily be considered the team’s most complete game of the season, with improvements in the defense and physicality departments taking center stage. Ultimately, it was the kind of victory a team wants to see at the end of a tough stretch, especially considering what lies ahead.
If the Chicago Bulls are serious about making the playoffs, the push starts now. The grace period ended on Sunday afternoon, and now the easiest stretch of their (11th-toughest) second-half schedule begins this week.
Seven of the Bulls next 10 games will be against opponents who hold a record of .500 or below. Two of the remaining three games will be against a Grizzlies squad that’s just one game over that threshold. The Hawks, who are 26-24 heading into this week, currently hold the best record of the Bulls upcoming opponents.
Here is a look at the full 10 game schedule:
@ Pacers (4/6)
@ Raptors (4/8)
@ Hawks (4/9)
@ Timberwolves (4/11)
@ Grizzlies (4/12)
vs. Magic (4/14)
vs. Grizzlies (4/16)
vs. Cavaliers (4/17)
@ Celtics (4/19)
@ Cavaliers (4/21)
After the way this team competed against the Suns, Jazz, and Nets, there is no reason they shouldn’t walk away from this stretch with a winning record.
The games against the Pacers, Raptors, and Celtics will be worth keeping an extremely close eye on.
Indiana is the team Chicago will have to surpass to start their journey up the standings. The Pacers currently sit 2.0 games ahead of the Bulls and have split their season-series against Chicago so far. Meanwhile, the Raptors are the only team on the Bulls heels, currently 1.5 games back for the 10 seed. I probably don’t have to remind you of this, but the 10th spot marks the final “postseason” slot this season. The Bulls want to do everything they can to avoid being on the outside looking in as April comes to a close.
Boston, on the other hand, sits two spots above the Bulls and 4.0 games ahead (the Knicks and Celitcs are tied with a record of 25-25). In other words, they’re another potentially passable team if this stretch goes well, and that game could prove to be pivotal if the Bulls string together some wins over the next two weeks.
When all is said and done, however, every game matters equally moving forward. The playoffs are only 24 games away, and the time is now to stack some Ws.