Jimmy Butler

Every time the Chicago Bulls might be headed in a direction telling us they can be taken seriously as championship contenders comes a losing streak, this time three games long, with defensive problems that simply won’t go away, that reveals a completely different truth.

It gives us Derrick Rose with a knee injury (tendinitis) that’s bothering him again, making him leave the game, come back, leave, come back and leave again, saying he’s simply trying to be careful, knowing his jumpers just didn’t feel right. With such an important player being one movement, one wrong step away from a long term injury, it’s sometimes difficult to make a gameplan work. Aaron Brooks didn’t do a bad job in his backup stint. He usually plays well. But something in the team’s rhythm is constantly off.

The Bulls had control in this game, with Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell leading them through a 25-9 run in the third quarter to take a lead in the fourth, but turnovers and being unable to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo led to the Milwaukee Bucks beating them 106-101. Both Snell and Mirotic finished with 17 points and Jimmy Butler led the team with 30. The Bucks scored 30 points off those 17 turnovers, as the Bulls too many times, on both ends of the floor, look like a group of individuals who happen to be together, and not a team trying to be something more.

One thing the Bucks did change in the second half that also made a big difference was stopping the Bulls dominance on the offensive glass. Chicago won the battle 20-14, and over the years have been an excellent team on the offensive glass. However, 14 of those came in the first half. Pau Gasol (10 points, 4-of-12 from the field), Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah did a good job of getting those second chances, but too often didn’t do much with them when they did.

So who is the real Chicago Bulls? The team that won six games in a row, or this team that keeps falling into losing streaks that are difficult to explain, keeping on mixing them in battles for the 2-3-4-5 seeds in the East, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are getting away from them. On paper the Bulls might be the second best team in the East and perhaps the only true opposition to the Cavaliers, the only teams James and co. could be worried about out East. Right now, they’re not close to the ability that merits them that distinction.

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