After the Bulls lost to the Atlanta Hawks on a buzzer-beater that came with under one second on the clock on Sunday, DeMar DeRozan kept it real:
“I had a coach tell me that until the clock hits zero, zero, zero, it ain’t over. They made a hell of play, a bucket; just one of them games you shake their hand. They got it.”
That slim loss to the Hawks spoiled what would have been their first perfect week of the season, which would have been an excellent 3-0 against the Wizards, Mavs, and Hawks. Eli wrote last week that the Bulls’ next 10 games might make or break their season, so even with the heartbreaker in Atlanta on Sunday, Billy Donovan’s guys are off to a 2-1 start with a pretty winnable slate of games on deck this week.
If the Bulls can’t take at least two of three against the Knicks (twice) and KAT-less Timberwolves, well, who knows where this season is headed …
Meet the Opponents:
- 12/14 vs. Knicks (14-13): We start pretty strong …
- 12/16 vs. Knicks (14-13): … but have trouble closing things out …
- 12/18 @ Timberwolves (13-14): No KAT, no problem?
Bulls Projected Lineup
1. Alex Caruso
2. Zach LaVine
3. DeMar DeRozan
4. Patrick Williams
5. Nikola Vučević
Opponent Projected Lineup
1. Jalen Brunson
2. Quentin Grimes
3. R.J. Barrett
4. Julius Randle
5. Mitchell Robinson
1. D’Angelo Russell
2. Anthony Edwards
3. Jaden McDaniels
4. Kyle Anderson
5. Rudy Gobert
Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week):
Bulls: Lonzo Ball OUT (knee), Alex Caruso DTD (back), Ayo Dosunmu DTD (abdominal)
Knicks: Jalen Brunson DTD (ankle), Ryan Arcidiacono OUT (ankle), Obi Toppin OUT (knee)
Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns OUT (calf), Taurean Prince OUT (shoulder)
• Bulls: 53.6 EFG% (14th), 14.4 TOV% (13th), 24.9 OREB% (25th), .262 FTA RATE (18th)
• Knicks: 51.3 EFG% (26th), 13.9 TOV% (8th), 31.7 OREB% (5th), .274 FTA RATE (13th)
• Timberwolves: 55.0 EFG% (10th), 16.0 TOV% (26th), 26.4 OREB% (20th), .279 FTA RATE (10th)
What to Watch For …
Bulls: Losing to the Hawks in the final half-second on Sunday night has me thinking about how the Bulls play throughout games. Despite Sunday night’s loss, Chicago has been one of the best second-half teams in the NBA this season. The Bulls are +6.9 in net rating in the third quarter (5th) and +2.5 in the fourth quarter (10th). Unfortunately, they ranked 18th and 25th in the first two-quarters of games. Those numbers jive with the eye test but might not be all that favorable for them this week against two teams that start strong in the Knicks and Timberwolves.
Knicks: Bad news for the Bulls: The Knicks have a young team that can get off to fiery starts. Good news for the Bulls: The Knicks have a young team that has trouble holding those early leads. New York owns a +9.5 net rating in the first quarter (6th) and +1.7 in the second quarter (12th). On the flip side, the Knicks are -5.6 in the third (23rd) and -3.0 in the fourth (21st). So … yeah … pretty much the opposite of the Bulls. Regardless, this will be an interesting matchup between two teams trying to prove they belong in the playoff mix. New York has recently opted to bench their veterans and invest fully in their young talent, and it’s given them four-straight wins. Meanwhile, the Bulls have made a starting lineup tweak of their own the past week, and it’s also led to wins in two of their past three games.
Timberwolves: Likewise, Minnesota is also pretty good in the first quarter (+6.7 net rating). While they’ve struggled in the middle of the game, they’ve been one of the best fourth-quarter teams in the NBA. Their +6.5 net rating in the fourth quarter ranks 5th in the league. Still, no Karl-Anthony Towns might as well make this a must-win on the Bulls’ schedule. As good as Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards can be, this is where Chicago needs to show that continuity can reign supreme.