The Chicago Bulls’ season started with a thud amidst high hopes. Through a combination of concern about whether the Miami Heat could three-peat, and optimism about Derrick Rose’s return, the Bulls were a chic pick to make it out of the Eastern Conference and win the NBA Finals.
Unsurprisingly, the Bulls fell flat and looked bad in a few early contests, against Miami and Indiana specifically.
Well, now, the Bulls look a little more like the Bulls many people expected to see. Still not all the way there, but not the mess we saw earlier.
The Bulls have won four straight, holding their opponents to 73, 81, 80 and 94 in those four games. The 94 was against the Indiana Pacers, and a lot of those points were given up in garbage time (the Pacers had just 46 points midway through the third quarter).
Derrick Rose lit it up against the Pacers, scoring 20 points, with most of those points
coming from red-hot three point shooting. He didn’t attack the paint much, and that was probably because of the hamstring injury that kept him out the previous night against the Toronto Raptors. He settled for 11 threes, and while that’s not how Rose typically plays, on this night he was simply on fire, hitting 6 of 11.
The best sign was probably the fact that the Bulls offense was rolling. The ball was swinging from side to side, players were in constant movement, and they knocked down open shots. The 58% three-point shooting mark the Bulls put up was at one point during the game up around 80%. Obviously that’s not typical or going to happen each night, but for one game, it was beautiful.
The defense and energy have been fantastic as well. In Toronto, the Bulls suffocated the Raptors’ offense. Against the Pacers, the Bulls were a step quicker, even though both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back. They gave the Pacers very few easy looks at the rim and limited their points in the paint. They deflected passes and made the Pacers play deep into the shot-clock many times.
Just as the first few games didn’t mean the Bulls were doomed, these last few games don’t mean the Bulls are suddenly back. But the way they have played lately looks more like the Bulls team that is an elite challenger in the East.