The previous four games for the East’s Top-6:
The Bulls put themselves in a pretty vulnerable place after a January stretch where they lost six of seven games. However, despite the door for the East’s top seed swinging open, those squads below Chicago have failed to take advantage of the opportunity. The Bulls’ lead remains at a slim 1.0 game, but the fact they can still be alone at the top of the conference after a concerning and disappointing end of January feels huge as we head toward the All-Star break.
• At least part of the Bulls’ ability to remain the King of the East can be chalked up to luck of the draw. The team is on one of their more favorable stretches right now, and it will continue for two more games before the competition significantly ramps up. A four-game stretch against all above-.500 teams will tip-off this weekend with a Sunday matchup against the surging Philadelphia 76ers – a team the Bulls have already lost twice to this season.
• But, hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Tonight’s battle against the Toronto Raptors will be no walk in the park (that is, unless we’re speaking about a walk in Maggie Daley Park during this most recent snowstorm). While the Bulls were able to take down Toronto 111-105 last Wednesday, it didn’t come without its trouble. The savvy Nick Nurse-led team was able to completely flip the script in the second half and erase the Bulls’ 19-point lead. They gave this depleted Bulls backcourt fits with their length, ball pressure, and timely shotmaking, and that was all with Pascal Siakam having a rare off-night. Add in the return of Fred VanVleet – who is playing the best basketball of his career – and the Bulls will have to get it done on both ends to win this one.
• Gary Trent Jr. has also been on an absolute heater. The 23-year-old has averaged an absurd 33.2 percent on a 51.7 percent clip from downtown over the previous five games. Against the Bulls on January 23rd, he hit six 3’s on his way to a 32-point showing. Trent Jr. dropped 18 of those points in the second half to claw the Raptors back, so the Bulls will have to bring their defensive A-game with both him and VanVleet making up the backcourt tonight. This duo is a big reason why the Miami Heat have failed to surpass the Bulls in the standings, as Toronto beat Butler and Co. twice in the last three games.
• Zach LaVine’s availability for tonight’s game is technically not a sure thing. According to the latest injury report, the Bulls soon-to-be two-time All-Star is listed as “probable” due to back spasms. Obviously, this indicates that it’s far more likely than not that LaVine takes the floor, but it’s still something to monitor over the next few games. The back can be a pesky thing, and his workload isn’t getting any lighter with four games in the next five days.
• The Bulls have done a pretty decent job at taking care of the basketball the past few games. This looked like a real problem when the team finished with 21 cough ups against the Magic last week and 16 against the Thunder. However, the Bulls have managed not to crack double-digit turnovers in each of the past three games. Considering they also have struggled to force double-digit turnovers without Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso on the floor, this careful play with the basketball needs to be an ever-greater emphasis moving forward. They play three top-15 defenses over their next four games.
• The NBA unveiled a new All-Star Game MVP trophy in honor of the late Kobe Bryant. The actual structure itself may not stand out too much, but the meaning behind it all is pretty darn cool:
The NBA today unveiled its lineup of newly designed NBA All-Star trophies in celebration of the league’s 75th Anniversary Season. The lineup of hardware is headlined by The Kobe Bryant Trophy, which will be awarded to the Kia NBA All-Star Game MVP.
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) February 3, 2022
• The rumors are piling up …
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) February 2, 2022
• Look, I don’t mind Giannis Antetokounmpo. I think he’s great for the game, a good dude, and arguably the best player in the league. But the Bucks? Well, we all know what list they’re on now, and if they don’t like this play below, maybe they should Google “Alex Caruso wrist.”
Things getting heated after Giannis went down in Milwaukee. 👀 pic.twitter.com/gkmmrLLEt9
— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) February 2, 2022
• Big moves for the WNBA!
— Sportico (@Sportico) February 3, 2022
• Disgraceful stuff from Rocky Wirtz.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) February 3, 2022