As putrid as their loss to the Houston Rockets was on Monday night, the Bulls have still won four of their last five games in arguably their most impressive stretch of the season.
First, they took down Miami (for the second time this year). Then, Ayo Dosunmu’s huge offensive rebound and buzzer-beater snatched a win from Atlanta. Following that, Mr. 4th Quarter, himself, went on to hit a classic midrange jumper (and draw the foul) to beat New York at MSG with 0.4 seconds left.
*grabs remote and fast forwards through painful Houston loss*
And most recently, we watched a focused and fiery squad take down Giannis Antetokounmpo at the United Center. Despite the Greek Freak dropping 45 points to go along with 22 rebounds and 7 assists, the Bulls managed to take Milwaukee into overtime and outscore them 13-7. A big reason for that was the heroics of DeMar DeRozan, who added his own 42 points and 10 rebounds to the final box score.
These four wins might not be enough to lock the Bulls back into the postseason picture, but it’s certainly a start. And we can thank the current traffic jam in the middle of the Eastern Conference for that.
The Bulls’ win over Milwaukee officially moved Chicago into the 10th seed and final Play-In Tournament spot. Now, I should make clear that they are tied at 15-19 with the Toronto Raptors, but the Bulls’ better conference record currently gives them the edge in the overall standings. Is this anything to hang a hat on? Absolutely not, but it is a reminder that the East remains crowded enough for the Bulls to still fight their way back into the mix.
This feels particularly true when we consider that Chicago has the 2nd-easiest strength of schedule remaining in the NBA, per Tankathon. Teams above them and within just 2.5 games currently include Miami (2nd toughest), Atlanta (10th), New York (11th), and Indiana (17th).
Look, I don’t know if they’ll be able to actually gain more ground, but there mere fact that it is feasible is noteworthy, considering how often we discuss the way this front office might approach things moving forward. The longer they see an opening, however small, the more hesitant they might be.
Not to mention, the Bulls are also currently 7-1 against the Bucks, Celtics, Nets, and Heat this season. Their newfound ability to hang with the East’s upper echelon could give Arturas Karnisovas and Co. more hope that they are on the right path.
Now, to be absolutely clear, I’m not saying this is how the Bulls should think. I fully believe that this roster has some significant holes and that a shake-up of some kind is needed to make real progress. All I’m trying to point out is that the Bulls aren’t out of this thing yet, which gives the front office an excuse to stay the course. Maybe that will finally change with matchups against the Cavs (x2), Nets, 76ers, Jazz, and Celtics making up six of their next seven games.
More thoughts here …