Just when it felt like things were finally clicking again, the Chicago Bulls blunder in an almost embarrassingly hilarious fashion. Pitted against the Houston Rockets for a post-Christmas showdown, everything appeared to be in Chicago’s favor — Vegas even had the Bulls pegged as 8-point favorites leading up to the game. Unfortunately, the Rockets played the role of underdog to perfection and pulled off a 133-118 victory over the Bulls to snap a five-game losing streak.
The Bulls were on a three-game winning streak of their own leading up to this game, the first time they’ve accomplished that feat all year. This was enough to inspire hope amongst the fanbase that a December comeback was in order.
While I understand why fans would be hopeful for this to not be a lost season, in retrospect it feels like the excitement from the win streak was largely unwarranted. After all, the three teams they did manage to defeat (Miami, Atlanta, and New York) have not been all that impressive this season. None of these teams are even in contention for home-court advantage and a top 4 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and yet Chicago still needed a miraculous game-winning sequence to claim two of the three victories.
Any hopes for a late December resurgence came crashing down Monday as the Chicago Bulls majorly disappointed against the Houston Rockets.
When the Rockets got out to a 23-5 run to begin the game, it was clear to see that the Bulls hadn’t anticipated such a fighting spirit from a young Houston squad sitting last place in the West with a 9-23 record. If watching the game with your own eyes wasn’t evidence enough, Zach LaVine confirms as much in his post-game interview.
Where this unearned confidence comes from on Chicago’s behalf I am unsure, especially given the Bulls’ track record this season. The Bulls currently hold a record of 2-5 against teams below them in the standings, including horrible losses against San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Washington, Orlando, and now Houston.
The Bulls have the easiest remaining strength of the schedule in the NBA, but does it even matter when they can’t show up against bottom-feeder teams? Is referring to these teams as “bottom-feeders” even fair when the Chicago Bulls are playing like one themselves?
Credit to DeMar DeRozan for once again being the consistent competitive presence on this team, it’s hard to fault him in the slightest after a terrific 31-point, 9-assist outing on 11-for-18 shooting from the field. Whatever motivation issues that are plaguing this team outside of DeMar, however, need to get resolved immediately or the Bulls run this risk of meandering through a wasted season in NBA purgatory.