A Familiar Feeling for Billy, Struggling with Consistency, DeMar’s Injury, and Other Bulls Bullets
When I landed back in Chicago and took out my phone to see the Bulls down 25-5, I knew it was over.
The 76ers did what they were supposed to. The best offense in the NBA since-mid February made their adjustments and punched the Bulls in the month. I feared in yesterday’s morning bullets that 3-point shooting and quicker decision-making would be a point of emphasis for Doc Rivers’ crew. And that immediately proved to be the case. They drained 12 3-pointers in the first half after finishing with just 10 on Monday night. Behind a combined 15 dimes from Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid, Philly also had 30 assists on 39-made field goals.
Meanwhile, Chicago looked like a team playing its fourth game in six days (two of which went into double-OT). They were sluggish out of the gate, cold as ice behind the arc (although, that’s typical), and fully ready to throw in the towel after two quarters.
- On the one hand, Chicago was due for a stinker. They have played some extremely physical, lengthy, and animated games over the past week and a half. And, while it was great to see them get their first win over Embiid earlier this week, expecting them to grab another over the NBA’s best team since mid-February felt a tad ambitious. On the other hand, consistency has been a major problem for the Bulls dating back to last season. This group has repeatedly followed up big-time wins with big-time duds, and it’s something that Billy Donovan didn’t shy away from mentioning to reporters last night:
“I think one of the things I talked about with the guys before the game was that this was a game very similar to Game 2 in Milwaukee last year,” Donovan told reporters. “Where you go in there, you find a way to win a game, it’s a hard fought game, you kind of come back home it’s 1-1. And I thought Milwaukee kind of got to this level and I felt the same thing. You go to Philly, it’s a hard-fought game, double overtime, and it started from the beginning.”
- I would have been fine with splitting this mini-series 1-1, particularly against this really good Philly team. But they couldn’t have made it at least a little more competitive? It’s just moments like these that further prove this group isn’t capable of being a true playoff threat. Other teams are going to be able to adjust or continuously play to a certain standard. The Bulls, as well as they have played in recent weeks, have yet to demonstrate they can make gutsy performances like the one we saw on Monday the norm.
- Speaking of which, the Bulls still haven’t won four games in a row all season long. While some of that can surely be chalked up to happenstance, it also speaks to this issue of consistency. This just isn’t a bar this group can clear. And they’re running out of time to figure things out.
- Adding to the concern is the injury status of DeMar DeRozan. The quad issue that kept him out of a handful of games earlier this season flared up again. He exited after playing 20 minutes and shooting an uncharacteristic 0-7 from the field. We saw DeRozan’s normally elite scoring efficiency dip at times as he attempted to play through this injury in January and February. With that being the case, it’s hard not to be a little concerned about the version of him the Bulls will get to close out the year. While LaVine has been one of the biggest factors in this late-season surge, it’s also been the pick-your-poison element of that duo that has helped them pull off some massive wins.
- Knowing DeRozan, my guess is that he entered tomorrow’s game against Portland as questionable. I think at least some of the team’s decision to pull him from last night’s game has to do with the score of the game, and Nikola Vucevic apparently agreed:
- I want to commend the Bulls for their recent play, but what Jason Patt shares below could be seen as more proof that this pre-existing core isn’t built for the long haul. As he notes, the LaVine/DeRozan/Vucevic trio has played more minutes than any 3-man combination in the league. They are a +16, which is somewhat encouraging, but they’re also stuck in a fight for the 10 seed. You’re only as good as your record, and these three have struggled to make the Bulls look like anything more than a Play-In-caliber squad.
- I got to agree with LaVine here.
- I need to know the road trip snacks.
- Mark your calendars: