Can the Bulls Do it Again? Harden Questionable, Longest Winning Streak, and Other Bulls Bullets
I got my hands on Billy Donovan’s pre-game notes. Here’s what is written:
SEE PRE-GAME NOTES FROM MARCH 20.
- The Chicago Bulls would love to press the copy-and-paste button tonight. When we consider the Play-In stakes, as well as Embiid’s perfect record against the franchise, Monday night’s victory was undoubtedly among the best of the season. Not only did the Bulls walk into the evening with an excellent game plan, but they executed it in a borderline flawless fashion. As we discussed in yesterday’s bullets, the team’s communication, hustle, and active hands held the NBA’s best offense since mid-February to just 104 points on 42.2 percent shooting. And prioritizing those same things will be crucial tonight.
- Now, prioritizing and accomplishing are two different things. Philly is going to come with their own set of adjustments, and it will be up to Donovan and his staff to have the Bulls prepared. I’d expect even quicker-decision making from the 76ers’ guards tonight, as well as an overall greater emphasis on taking care of the basketball. Establishing Embiid more in the paint will also surely be a priority.
“We were trying to be there for one another,” DeRozan told Bulls dot com after the game. “It’s a tough task trying to guard Embiid alone. So we tried to be all over the place. Scramble and double as much as we can to make it difficult. Make passes difficult. Everybody stayed the course with the game plan.”
- Philly can’t shoot that poorly from behind the arc again, right? They came into the night as the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team but ended up just 10-36 from the field. James Harden went 0-6 while Maxey went 2-7. While the Bulls’ defense deserves a ton of credit for rotating and closing out hard on shooters, it still felt like an uncharacteristically poor shooting display from a team full of shooters. In fact, it was the team’s worst display from long-range since Feb. 11 against Brooklyn.
- The good news for Chicago is that James Harden may not even have a chance to redeem himself tonight. After scoring a season-low 5 points in over 40 minutes of action, Harden will walk into tonight as “questionable” due to Achilles soreness. Meanwhile, the Bulls are still waiting to see if Alex Caruso can return from his one-game absence. I know Chicago was able to put together that impressive defensive performance without him in the mix, but I think we can all agree it will be a lot easier to repeat if he’s available tonight.
- If he is available, I’ll be curious to see if Donovan still includes Derrick Jones Jr. in the rotation. His verticality and switchability proved to be a vital part of the Bulls’ success in that last matchup, and I have to imagine that there is some eagerness to reward him for his awesome game-clinching block on Harden.
- Did anyone see this second-half defensive surge coming from the Bulls? I mean … wow.
- As I said, Alex Caruso deserves an All-Defensive team selection at the very least.
- The Chicago Bulls currently have the longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference and are tied for the longest winning streak in the NBA. This three-game stretch has helped push their lead over the Wizards and Pacers to 2.5 games. Matt touched on how the playoff odds have greatly improved in recent weeks, so give that a read here if you haven’t yet. I’m still uneasy about their ability to secure a first-round series, but there is no question they’re playing some of their best basketball right now. I sure wouldn’t want to play them in the Play-In Tournament at the moment. And, honestly, I’d be at least 8 percent worried about a possible lengthy first-round matchup if I were the Celtics or 76ers.
- LITTLE BOOOOOOZ
- Scary stuff for Paul George.
- All good questions!
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