Whether it was when 12 out of 13 games against the 2021 playoff teams came at the beginning of December or when the team faced 22 league games in the 36 days before the All-Star break, I assumed Chicago Bulls days were behind them. .
We all know what they say when you assume.
Just 23 games separate the Chicago Bulls and their first post-season berth since the 2016-17 season. And sadly, these 23 games will be much closer to a walk at Bowser Castle than a walk in the park. According to Tankathon, the Bulls face the second toughest remaining schedule in the league behind only the Milwaukee Bucks. Ask Positive Residual, and they put the Bulls in the exact same spot just behind the Los Angeles Lakers (FWIW: Tankathon has the Lakers third).
Twelve of the Bulls’ last 23 games will come against teams currently ranked sixth in their conference. Nine of those tough games will come against Eastern Conference teams, including three against the fifth-placed Milwaukee Bucks, two against the number-one Miami Heat, two against the fourth-ranked Cleveland Cavaliers, and one against the third-ranked Philadelphia 76ers. The Boston Celtics are in sixth place. Against those five teams this season, the Chicago Bulls combined 2-8.
Expanded to include matches in the West with the Suns, Grizzlies, and Jazz, and the Chicago Bulls only hold a 3-10 record. Given the team’s injury problem, this specific record against similar elite teams doesn’t tell the whole story, but it doesn’t have to. The Bulls won’t be in full force when this new challenge kicks off after the All-Star break, so they should be ready to play some of the best basketball of the season to stay competitive for the East lead.
Fortunately for them, a five-game winning streak before this much-needed break has momentum on their side. Not only has DeMar DeRozan continued to play at MVP level this season, but Nikola Vucevic is back as an All-Star. The huge man has been a pivotal part of this team’s mid-season success, averaging 24.1 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game over his previous 10 games. The Bulls will be asking for the same kind of balancing effort from Vucevic when the matches return later this week, with plenty of dominant big men appearing on the schedule over the next six games.
take a look …
Feb 24 – vs. Atlanta
Feb 26 – vs Grizzlies
Feb 28 – @Miami
March 3 – @Atlanta
March 4 – opposite Milwaukee
March 6 – @ Philadelphia
To add insult to injury (literal and figurative), the Bulls will also see 13 of these next 23 games on the road. Starting on March 14, eight of the nine consecutive matches will be played on another team’s circuit, and the only rescue period will be five home matches starting in April.
To be the best, you have to defeat the best, and the Bulls have the opportunity to do just that. I think this will prove to be a necessary test that will only help them better understand what it takes to go through a deep playoff. However, I’d also be lying if I said this isn’t a worrisome or frustrating way to close out the season. Adversity was already prevalent in the team’s story, and we still don’t know for sure when/whether a healthy band will be speaking. So could the basketball gods seriously not offer a slight break? Oh, okay.