Four losses in the last five games for the Chicago Bulls, with or without the injured Jimmy Butler, are putting a more and more hopeless light on this season which began as another would be championship campaign and might end with them falling out of the playoff seeding if this keeps going.
Their most recent loss, marking it 11 in their last 16 games (a frame that began after six consecutive wins) was another one of those games in which they held a lead heading into the final minutes and then stalled. The offense stops working, the defense doesn’t get the stops we’re used to seeing from them (getting harder and harder with the two most important defensive players not playing) and the team seems to lose its mind.
Their most recent occurrence came against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the third worst team in the Western conference. The Bulls had a 105-100 lead with 2:55 to go after two Derrick Rose free throws, but they gave up 12 consecutive points to close the game with Andrew Wiggins scoring six consecutive points during one stretch to bring the lead to Minnesota, while the Bulls finished the game with seven consecutive missed field goals.
The good news about the whole Butler thing is that his knee strain isn’t going to keep him out for long. But in the meantime, it’s not just the offense that’s relying on an inconsistent Derrick Rose to be its go to guy, finishing with 6-of-20 from the field and scoring 18 points with 10 assists (0-for-3 from beyond the arc), Pau Gasol scored 25 points but his defense continues to be a problem, even with Taj Gibson playing next to him. And while Bobby Portis did impress with 15 points, it mostly feels like the Bulls have no idea what they’re going to get from the bench on any given night.
Mike Dunleavy is back, playing for the first time this season after missing the initial 49 games. He didn’t look too bad, scoring 8 points and might finally help Fred Hoiberg sort out the whole small forward mess. But overall, with or without Butler playing, the Bulls are sliding fast towards .500 (27-23 right now) and although missing the playoffs still seems unlikely, it’ll be less and less surprising if they do end up without postseason basketball for the first time since Rose was drafted.