Bears Do Their Best Bulls Impression, Streak Snapped, Missing Caruso and Green, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Bears Do Their Best Bulls Impression, Streak Snapped, Missing Caruso and Green, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Been there, done that. 

•   When we separate our “sports brain” from our “everything else brain,” it admittedly feels odd to cheer for someone to get fired. I’ve always felt a bit icky in hindsight whenever that kind of coveted announcement is made, but then my sports brain takes back over, and I order a round of shots for everyone as we toast to a brighter tomorrow. I’m sure someone like Matt Nagy is a fine human being. In fact, I’m sure someone like Matt Nagy can find success in another environment (just perhaps not as head coach). But we’re talking about a results-based industry here. The Chicago Bears’ results were bad, and someone had to take the fall for that.

•   Likewise, the Bears’ results stood in front of a stale and toxic backdrop, which is why Chicago should be ecstatic to see the organization follow the Bulls mold. Nagy had to go, but a franchise is only going to see the same results if they don’t allow someone different to fill his role. We all watched for years as GarPax repeatedly failed to fix the product on the court, hiring the wrong people and picking the wrong players. The only way for real change to come is by starting fresh, and the Bulls have become a perfect reminder of that with their first-place standing in the Eastern Conference.

•   Speaking of that first-place team, they lost the NBA’s largest active win streak thanks to a 113-99 dud to the Dallas Mavericks last night. Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic combined for a 22-54 showing from the field, leading to the Bulls scoring under 100 points for the first time since December 11th and only the 8th time this season. Considering this was the NBA’s No. 2-ranked offense since December 1st, it felt like they were due for an off-night. And panicking over that one off-night isn’t worth the hair loss. We know how good this team can be, and we also know how good Luka Doncic can be (22pts, 14ast, 14reb). Still, this isn’t the kind of loss the Bulls should just flush, and head coach Billy Donovan knows it:

“I’m really proud of what they did, but I’ve always said, we can’t just look at we’re on some little winning streak here, we have to look at the totality of where we’re really at, where we’re headed, and where are we going, and how are we trending,” Donovan told reporters after the game.

•   What’s funny is that Donovan almost predicted this very outcome. Upon his return from the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, the head coach made clear that he wasn’t satisfied with the Bulls’ defensive execution. He said the team’s wildly efficient shooting wasn’t going to hold up, and it would be up to the defense to save them once that happened. Last night, as the Bulls bricked a handful of good looks, the defense allowed the Mavs to shoot 50 percent from the field and 6-9 from 3-point range in the 4th quarter.

•   To be clear, we know this Bulls team can play defense. In fact, we know this Bulls team can play defense at a top-10 level. But as players have moved in and out of the lineup, and the Bulls have found a better rhythm on offense, it’s become clear that the defensive side of the ball has become secondary. My hope is that a wake-up call like this combined with the return of Alex Caruso can re-ignite the active hands and well-timed rotating we saw over the first month of the season. I know it’s cliche, but defense is contagious, and the backcourt tandem of Caruso and Ball encourages everyone to give maximum effort.

“I think our defense is just not consistent enough,” Vucevic told reporters. “Throughout games, we have stretches where we’re really good and we’re able to make our runs, and then we have stretches where we’re just not focused enough. Our rebounding needs to be a lot better. That hurts. A lot of times we do get stops but we don’t get rebounds, so they get second-shot opportunities. Those hurt always.”

•   See, this is also where the absence of Javonte Green comes into play. There is no lack of energy or consistency with Green. A master of the dirty work, his versatile presence helps ensure minimal drop-off on both ends of the floor, particularly in the rebounding department. Green averaged the second-most offensive rebounds per game for the Bulls (behind only Vucevic), and he always seemed to have a knack for crashing the glass hardest when it mattered most.

•   When you’re missing two of your best perimeter defenders in Green and Caruso, you also have a game where an athletic 6-6, 200+ pound Josh Green scores a career-high 18 points on 8-10 shooting. These types of slashing wings can give this Bulls’ team problems.

•   A very cool moment.

•   An even cooler moment.

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.