The winning streak is now up to six, and Derrick Rose looks like a helpful part of the Chicago Bulls instead of someone dragging them back. They’re still not first in the Eastern Conference and maybe won’t get there, but they’re distancing themselves away from the rest.
Overall, that’s the assumption about the East: The Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James are the team to beat, and the Bulls, who beat them on opening night, are the closest thing there is to a team the Cavs have a problem with. After some struggles, injuries and issues between teammates and the coach himself, it seems the Bulls have figured out the lineup that works best for them on both ends of the floor, resulting in wins over good Eastern teams while scoring 100 points or more in all these games. Doing most of them at home didn’t hurt.
It was once again the lineup doing most of the work, with six players overall in double figures. Jimmy Butler, not on the best of shooting days, scored 19 points, but it was Rose, finishing with 18 and 7 rebounds who seems to be flourishing right now, seeing less of the ball when it comes to playmaking, which brings out the best of him and Butler (10 assists). Gasol finished with another double double of 17 points and 18 rebounds. It’s been easier for him defensively playing next to Taj Gibson, while Nikola Mirotic is doing a lot better in the lineup again, but no longer as a ‘4’, finishing with 11 points and 8 rebounds, although he’s still under 40% shooting for the season.
After giving up 219 points in the last two wins against the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls held the Celtics to just 92 points in the 101-92 win, something Jared Sullinger talked about after the game. It was difficult scoring against the Bulls on the night, and overall, what Pau Gasol said is the truest statement of all, even if its mundane: When the Bulls key players play well, they’re not just a good team; they’re a very good team.
Now the key is keeping it up. Getting a little bit more from the bench. Seeing how Mirotic doesn’t miss so many open shots. Getting more from Bobby Portis, who shot just 2-of-9 from the field, but is already an integral part of the rotation. How does Joakim Noah fit back into all of this, especially now that he’s not going to be playing next to Taj Gibson as much as before. Their longest winning streak of the season has presented some very positive developments for the Bulls, but hasn’t answered all of the questions.