The Chicago Bulls are at the midway point of the season, and it’s safe to say that many expected them to have a better record than their current one of 19-22. Let’s look back and highlight three takeaways from their performance so far.
Subpar record in the “clutch”
Last season, the Bulls were one of the best teams in the NBA at finishing games down the stretch—they had a 25-16 record in the “clutch” (defined as a game within five points in the last 5 minutes). This year, they are only 8-14 in such games.
While several of their losses have come due to bad breaks (such as numerous missed calls like the lane violation that Donovan Mitchell committed), the reality is that Chicago’s lack of composure and execution late in games has cost them dearly this season on several occasions.
Chicago has held its own against Boston
The Boston Celtics have been the cream of the crop this season. However, the Bulls got the best out of the reigning Eastern Conference champions in two of the four times they’ve met.
Prior to Boston’s 107-99 victory on Monday, the Bulls dealt the Celtics a 120-102 loss on October 24, before beating them once more, 121-107, on November 21. That win stopped the Celtics’ nine-game winning streak in a game that saw DeRozan come up with 28 points while Zach LaVine chipped in 22.
The real surprise was how easy Chicago made it look against the team with the NBA’s best record, especially in the Eastern Conference. Had they been able to beat “easier opponents,” the Bulls’ would’ve been sitting on a better record going into the second half of the season.
Inconsistencies all over the place
As terrific as the Bulls have been against the East’s best, they have been just as puzzling when facing less stellar opponents.
They have been caught in an up-and-down pattern this season, with big wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets and disappointing defeats to teams like the Houston Rockets and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The defeat to Minnesota was particularly embarrassing as they allowed the Timberwolves to drop 150 points in a 150-124 massacre on December 18.
Chicago’s recent stretch hints at a potential season turnaround—they are 3-1 over the last four games. But in order to get there, DeRozan and Co. will have to make sure they stop losing winnable games. If they can do that, the season’s biggest underachievers might become the NBA’s biggest dark horse come playoff time.
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