A loss is a loss … but that doesn’t mean some aren’t easier to stomach than others.
I give the Bulls a ton of credit for the way they fought in last night’s 123-119 loss to the Boston Celtics. As much as it felt like a missed opportunity to steal one against the reigning Eastern Conference champs, it still showed us that this is a different team than the one we watched last year.
Indeed, it felt like last season’s Bulls team would curl up into the fetal position any time someone with a better record walked into the gym. While they took care of lesser opponents on any given night, we watched blowout after blowout against those that sat a few notches higher on the totem pole.
This season, however, the Bulls seem to have that Captain America “I can do this all day” energy. They have already taken games from the Heat and Celtics, and they just kept it close on the road in their second meeting with the Celtics. I also think we have to give them at least some credit for playing two highly entertaining games on national television this week. They handed Kevin Durant a loss on TNT and DeRozan dropped 46 points on ESPN. Compared to last season’s many primetime debacles, that’s some progress!
- Billy Donovan made it clear that this team isn’t going to be taking moral victories, but he also rightfully recognized that the Bulls put up a refreshingly competitive effort.
“I’m disappointed we lost, and I’m disappointed with some of the things we did do … But these teams like Boston and some of the higher level teams, the top-4 teams in the East and the West, we were noncompetitive [last year], to be quite honest with you … There is no moral victories, I’m not saying that at all, but there has been some growth in competing against some of the upper echelon teams.”
- All things considered, this is what we needed to see early on from this Bulls team. Making real progress this season started with performing better against the top teams in each respective conference. Now, to be sure, they have to continue to prove they have what it takes to make these games competitive, but it’s an encouraging early sign. The question now is whether they can understand just how small the margin for error is in these battles with the best. One rebound or one bad shot can be the difference between winning and losing.
- Speaking of which, a big reason the Bulls were able to walk away victorious in their first meeting with the Celtics was because of advantages in the rebounding and free throw department. Last night they were on the wrong side of both categories (even with DeRozan shooting an absurd 22 free throws!).
- I also can’t help but wonder if a healthier Zach LaVine is the difference between winning and losing that game. He’s undoubtedly still searching for the return of his downhill explosiveness, and he reminded us of that with only two of his 13 shots coming within the paint last night. The All-Star was asked about how he’s knee is feeling after the game – which was his third in four days – and he was completely honest about where things currently stand:
- LaVine made two important points here: (1) He’s still working his way back to 100 percent, and (2) he will have to start thinking more long-term about his health. The first thing is certinatly frustrating when we consider both he and the team acted like all was well during training camp and the preseason, but … whatever. The fact he was even able to suit up for three games in four days is a positive sign, and I’m also happy to hear that he feels as if that downhill explosiveness is on its way back. I’ll fully believe him when I see it, but I can buy it for now considering he apparently played no five-on-five this summer and has only appeared in seven games thus far. This stuff takes time.
- As for his second point, I actually think it’s a great one. All players lose a step as they get older. While LaVine should still be a handful of years away from some kind of significant decrease in his athleticism, it doesn’t hurt to start playing a little bit more carefully. He doesn’t always need to go for the monster dunk or hard finish through contact. The guy is talented enough to still be just as effective without that.
- FWIW: We also got an update on Lonzo Ball’s health last night. It isn’t much, but I’ll take anything positive at this point!
- Something are bigger than basketball. A couple of years ago, Nikola Vucevic gave his signed jersey to a fan battling cancer. Fast forward to last night, and that same fan let Vucevic know that he’s made it out the other side. What a special moment.
- Only a handful of weeks after Ben Gordon was arrested at an airport for an incident involving his son, he has now been arrested for an altercation in Chicago. I’m hoping Gordon can get the help he needs. This is just sad stuff.
- I just had to share this because it’s awesome:
- Why not!
- I love chances and goals!