There is no secret that the Chicago Bulls are my favorite team. Yet this season I have avoided writing about them for the last few months. It is not because I dislike watching them play or I have given up interest. I simply just do not know what to make of this basketball team. The representatives of the Windy City have confused both me and actual NBA experts all season long.
The other night, the Chicago Bulls defeated the floundering Cleveland Cavaliers 99-93 to successfully complete a four-game sweep of the defending champions. It was only the third time in the last decade that a team went 4-0 or better against the defending champions in one season. (2012 Lakers vs Mavericks/2014 Nets vs Heat.) They have won an astounding 20 straight home games on TNT which might be the most ridiculous stat I have read this season. Furthermore, prior to last week’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, they had won 11 straight games against who many consider the second-best team in the East. So what is the problem?
Inconsistency is a great place to start. Nikola Mirotic seems to hit a weird stride in March and this season is no different. Less than two weeks ago Mirotic informed the media that head coach Fred Hoiberg had removed him from the rotation. Flash forward to last night where Mirotic played a huge role in continuing to expose the woes of LeBron and Co. defensively from all over the floor. Prior to the trade deadline, both Mirotic and Rondo were shopped aggressively in order to gain other pieces to solidify a team with no identity. Now Mirotic has scored his season high of 28 in three of the last four games and has hit 20 3 pointers during that span for a team that is 27th in the league in three-point percentage at 33%. Just for fun, however, the Bulls are shooting 45% in their last 3 games from behind the arc.
Mirotic is not the only Chicago Bull that has coincided with the roller coaster season so far. Rajon Rondo has bounced back from starting to being benched to starting again. During this season the team has looked best when he has looked his best and it seems that Coach Hoiberg is starting to come to terms with that. The other night the high IQ vet played a valuable role. Despite 3-of-13 shooting, he had 9 rebounds and 15 assists ending with a +6 rating during the time he was on the court. Rondo simply makes plays that the other guards on the roster can’t and remains a pest defensively providing maximum effort when he is tuned in.
The playoffs have been an afterthought for the Chicago Bulls for much of the year yet somehow they are still alive in the chase for 8. After last night they are only one game behind the 8th seeded Indiana Pacers and 7th seeded Miami Heat for a potential playoff spot. I admit I am watching this team with more intrigue than I was only a month ago. The Bulls seem destined to not figure things out this season or the next with all reports leading to Jimmy Butler being out at the end of the season. However, for now, they have been fun to watch in their own version of March Madness. Let the joy ride continue.