The moment the broadcast flipped to the United Center on Wednesday night, it was evident we were dealing with a playoff atmosphere. The Nets had their “Big 3” on the court for only the second time this season, and they were in the home of the team that sits one level above them on a wobbly thrown.
Meanwhile, the unexpected first-place Bulls were staring at a season-sweep of one of the most superstar-studded rosters in NBA history. There was no lack of motivation on either side. But there was a lack of experience on one.
• The Chicago Bulls owned their second-half stinkfest. After the game, a calm head coach and a pair of calm star players didn’t throw around excuses. Donovan talked about the team’s inconsistent defensive execution. LaVine spoke about how his team failed to be the aggressor. And DeRozan spoke about his team’s unfortunate snowball effect. The first step after a blowout loss on national television is accountability, and the Bulls checked that box immediately (more on that in yesterday’s bullets).
• The second step is trying to process these things that forced everyone to take accountability in the first place. In other words, learning from their mistakes. Only on-court time will tell whether or not the Bulls achieve that, but they continued to say the right things when speaking with the media after the game:
“I think our guys have worked really hard up until this point to be where we are in the standings,” Donovan said, “and I think with that, there is even a greater responsibility. And I think maybe outside of DeMar; I don’t know if anyone on our team has been in the standings where we are right now
I think this is something that can be good for our guys. I’m hopeful because it is only one game. Whether you lost by one or 30 something, we have got to be in a situation to understand that every transition possession is important, every missed shot is critical.”
• Bingo. This is all I could think as I watched the Bulls walk off the hardwood on Wednesday night. As many obstacles as the Bulls have already faced this season, the 138-112 loss to the Nets provided a lesson this unexpectedly great team had yet to face. What the Bulls witnessed was not only their first glimpse at playoff-level basketball, but they saw what opposing teams want to do to the top dog.
“It’s new for a lot of the guys,” DeRozan told reporters. “Tonight is a prime example of helping you understand what needs to be done when you got out there and compete versus these teams. Whether it’s Brooklyn or a lower seed team, we’re going to get every team’s best shot. We have got to know what every time we step on the court.”
• The NBA is a weird and wacky place. One night after it looked like the Nets were ready to go undefeated on their way to an NBA Championship, they showed up to play the NBA’s fourth-worst team and lost by 21. To be sure, Kyrie Irving was out of the lineup due to New York’s local mandate, and the Nets decided to give Kevin Durant the night off. However, in a race for the East’s top spot, taking a 20-point loss to a 14-win Thunder team is the opposite of looking dominant.
See you Saturday pic.twitter.com/f7omA4mbF2
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 14, 2022
• The Bulls’ matchup with the Warriors tonight might be a tad underwhelming. While there will still be plenty of stars on the floor, Golden State has already ruled out Draymond Green and Klay Thompson ahead of tonight’s game. Green is out due to a calf injury, and the Warriors have decided to rest Thompson on the backend of back-to-back sets.
• Speaking of which, the Warriors were in Milwaukee last night and stunk it up in a way that felt nearly impossible. The team scored just 38 points in the first half, which ESPN Stats noted was a historic deficit for the franchise.
The Bucks lead the Warriors 77-38 at the half.
That 39 point halftime deficit is the largest the Warriors have trailed by since the franchise moved to California in 1962-63.
Giannis and Portis combined to score 40 points, more than the Warriors entire team. pic.twitter.com/SzCTdHpakZ
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 14, 2022
• I’m glad the Bulls have the rest advantage tonight, but that blowout affair makes it a tiny bit less impactful than it could have been. Stephen Curry only played 29 minutes, while Andrew Wiggins played 28 minutes. So not only will members of this starting lineup take the floor with less tired legs than initially thought, but they (mainly Stephen Curry) will likely be hungry for a bounceback effort.
• Green’s absence has been felt for the Warriors.
Since Dec. 18, Warriors are 5-1 with Draymond Green in the lineup, 1-5 without him. Green is out tonight vs. #Bulls with a calf injury.
— Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHSports) January 14, 2022
• Initial reports had Derrick Jones Jr. sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks with a bone bruise, but the Bulls released an official timeline of just 2-to-4 weeks later in the day on Thursday. Considering how scary the injury first appeared, this feels like a huge win for the Bulls. But will it have any impact on their trade deadline plans?
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 13, 2022
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 13, 2022
• By the way, if you haven’t read this yet, what are you waiting for!? Great stuff from Jamal Collier on DeRozan’s growth, veteran leadership, and his path to becoming a Bull.
“This shit is gonna work”
I sat down with DeMar DeRozan to talk about becoming the best version of himself on the court and finding peace off the court in Chicago https://t.co/4hGoouwcxg
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) January 12, 2022
Must Read of the Day: A Portrait of Organizational Failure https://t.co/ygPaE8vd07
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) January 14, 2022