Bulls By The Numbers
After a shaky 11-6 November start, the Chicago Bulls are slowly coming together. They have now won six straight games and are 10-3 in the month of December with two more games left to play before the year closes. In the team standings, the Bulls are 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland for the top spot in the Central Division and are only 2 games off Eastern Conference leaders Toronto. The scary thing about the Bulls though is that what we’re seeing now may only be just the tip of the iceberg.
Beginning To Play Together
The Bulls, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers, were highly touted coming into the current season after a massive upgrade that included the addition of Pau Gasol, Aaron Brooks, Nikola Mirotic and rookie Doug McDermott. Add the returning 2011 MVP Derrick Rose and Chicago had a powerhouse that had more than enough to rival the LeBron-led Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. But their best starting line-up of Rose/Butler/Dunleavy/Gasol and Noah have played just 11 out of 29 total games together due to various injuries, leaving the Bulls to scramble early on. But with Rose missing just two games in December, the Bulls are starting to dominate the competition.
Hottest Team Right Now
After beating the New Orleans Pelicans 107-100 on Saturday night, the Bulls have won 6 straight games, the current longest winning streak in the NBA. The Bulls also own the best Last 10 games record in the NBA as of Saturday (12.27.14) with 9-1. Prior to beating the Kobe-less Lakers on Christmas day, The Bulls beat three top NBA teams in succession: Memphis Grizzlies (#2-West), Toronto Raptors (#1-East) and Washington Wizards (#3-East). The games against Memphis and Washington were on the road while the games against Toronto and Washington were on back to back nights.
Pieces Fitting Perfectly
The reason why they have been winning is that now that they are healthy, the pieces that they assembled in the offseason have been fitting perfectly. The most noticeable difference is bench production. The Bulls’ bench is only 24th in the NBA in bench scoring with 30.1 PPG. During this six game winning streak, their bench has averaged 38.66 PPG and 40.2 in the last five games. Nikola Mirotic has averaged 13.66 points in the last 6 games, Aaron Brooks is doing 15.16 PPG and Taj Gibson has scored 12.0 PPG in December despite missing 4 games. So with the starting line-up getting healthier by the day, the bench has started to stabilize too.
Outlook is Bullish
The Bulls close out the year with games against the Pacers (Dec 29) and Nets (Dec 30),both of whom have losing records. It would be fantastic if the Bulls beat the two and finish the year with an 8-game win streak. But even if they lose both games, the Bulls still hold a 2.5 game edge over the Cavs for 4th place in the East and the top spot in their conference. They will at least hold on to that 4th spot at year’s end, and that’s just the perfect spot for them considering their injury-plagued start. Here’s one more stat : Against the top three teams in the East, the Bulls are 3-1 despite playing two road games. Among the Top 4 teams in the East, Chicago has the most playoff experience and should come in handy as the season develops. Because of these, the outlook in Chi-town is indeed Bull-ish right now.