A weird thing about the Chicago Bulls: Exactly the same team in terms of players with only one rookie addition, but a head coaching change makes things very different from a broader look, and it seems the team is still going through the motions trying to figure out where this is going.
Their win over the Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t come as a surprise. A 111-88 win on the road. It’s not just because the Sixers still haven’t won a game (0-7); it’s because the Bulls are a deep team, with offensive and defensive talent, that’s not just about Derrick Rose. He and Jimmy Butler had an off night, scoring just 19 points on while shooting 40% from the field. The Bulls didn’t need more from them: Nikola Mirotic with 20, Doug McDermott (finally) with 18 and Pau Gasol with 16. That was enough, with some help from the bench.
But the highs and lows need to end at some point if the Bulls want to make a serious challenge for the top two spots in the East, and put themselves in a better position to make the conference finals this year. Either way, the road to the championship is going through Cleveland, and it’s better to meet them later, and with home court advantage if possible.
You can just look at the results and see how weirdly this has been going: Wins against championship caliber teams like the Cavaliers and the Thunder, but also beating up the bottom dwellers like the Magic, 76ers and Nets. Two of their three losses don’t make a lot of sense: At home in overtime to the surprising Timberwolves, and on the road, by 25 points, to the Charlotte Hornets. The loss to the Pistons? With Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson playing like they are now, it’s no surprise.
While the Bulls try to figure out who is leading this offense (maybe no one?) and how to adjust to Fred Hoiberg’s new ways, they need to make sure that no one in the East is running away with the conference. The Cavs are off to a wonderful start despite all their injuries, which should be worrying to everyone in the conference. Not picking up the pace soon might leave the Bulls too far behind, and once again heading into the playoffs from a point of major disadvantage.