The roller-coaster of a season rolls on.
The Chicago Bulls, coming off of a one point loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, were in Atlanta visiting the 24-18 Hawks on Friday night. This game was a good opportunity for the Bulls to see how they stacked up against a top team in the Eastern Conference. Long story short, the Bulls still have a lot of work ahead of them.
From the tip, the Bulls were flat showing poor effort and almost non-existent energy. Not one player on the team looked interested in playing the game.The Bulls dug themselves into a huge hole early as they were outscored 35-13 in the first quarter. Early on, the team couldn’t buy a basket. Jump shot after jump shot, layup after layup, nothing was falling. The Bulls shooting in this game was horrendous, in fact, the team did not hit their first three point basket until halfway through the second quarter. The poor play continued into halftime as the Bulls went into the locker room down by 29 points. As a fan, one would hope that veteran players like Dwyane Wade or Taj Gibson could have somehow awoken the team, igniting some sort of fight within the group going into the second half. That didn’t happen. The Bulls continued their poor play through the third quarter, beginning the fourth down 87-57.
Hoiberg, looking to rest his starters in a lost game, began the fourth quarter with the reserves on the floor. Believe it or not, this move turned out to be a stroke of genius. With the starting five of Rondo, McDermott, Portis, Mirotic, and Valentine as well as contributions from Grant and Zipser, the Bulls came out with the energy and effort the starters were missing. Grant would end up finishing the game with 12 points, and Portis and Zipser both had 10 a piece. Hustling up and down the floor, playing tight defense, and making good shots, the Bulls fought all the way to within 5 points of the Hawks. The valiant comeback was cut short though due to some poorly timed turnovers and the Hawks ended up sneaking past the Bulls to win the game 102-93. Hoiberg should definitely take note of the contributions his bench made in last night’s lose. If the lack of effort from the starting group continues, it’s time Hoiberg looks to shake things up. This season is far from over and all it takes is one consistent winning streak to save the season.
Jimmy Butler, in his first game since recently being elected as an All-Star starter on the Eastern Conference team, had a productive game scoring 19 points and dishing out 3 assists. Dwyane Wade was almost non-existent in this one, scoring 4 points on 2/10 shooting from the field. Wade is having one of the worst seasons of his career, statistically speaking. He is averaging 18.4 points per game, his lowest average since his rookie season (16.4 ppg). Wade is also shooting a career low in field goal percentage at .423 thus far on the season. Dwyane is currently in the first year of his 2 year $47 million deal with the Bulls. His production has been down and on some nights he looks like a spectator on the floor. He has definitely not been the consistent force Bulls fans and the front office were looking for when they signed him in the beginning of the season. Hopefully Wade can use the upcoming All-Star break to get himself healthy and come out fresh and focused for the beginning of the second half of the season.
The Bulls are now 21-23, back to two games under .500. The team has a quick turnaround on Saturday as they head home to face the 16-26 Sacramento Kings. The Bulls need to find something to motivate them to win games. The season is not lost yet, there’s still time for improvement. This team needs to come together and collectively decide what their end goal is for this season. Is mediocrity and inconsistent play the end story of this season? Or will we see a team who’s ready to fight hard and represent the city of Chicago and all of it’s dedicated fans? I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out.