If you were one of the unlucky souls who turned the game off early or even worse, left the arena, in the closing moments on Wednesday night, oh do I feel bad for you. The Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks delivered an extremely entertaining game that went right up to the closing moments last night, a performance that was only sweetened by the fact the Bulls emerged with a victory.
Don’t be fooled, things weren’t always so close. Down 11 points with only 2:18 remaining on the clock, things looked grim for the Bulls. In fact, this was just the sixth time in the last two decades that a team has overcome those daunting odds. Fortunately, a clutch three-pointer and a pair of free throws from Zach LaVine helped Chicago close the gap for Patrick Williams and DeMar DeRozan to bring the Bulls within striking distance.
Of course, that led to an incredible end-of-regulation sequence in which DeRozan secured a steal off of the inbounds play and delivered a perfect pass to allow Ayo Dosunmu to tie the game up and send things into overtime. Against an exhausted Bucks squad having possibly the worst three-point shooting performance of the season, the Bulls were able to overcome their rival and extend the season series to 2-0 in the end.
Although they struggled against the NBA’s elite teams last season, the Chicago Bulls are cleaning house at the top of the East this time around.
What’s particularly interesting about the Bulls’ recent play is that they’re consistently closing out the games they would have been losing just a month or two ago this season. Since beginning the year with a 3-13 record in the clutch, Chicago has now won their last three games decided by two points or less at the end of regulation.
They also seem to have completely flipped the switch from last season, as they got off to a hot start before cooling down as opposed to a horrendous start this year which now appears to possibly be ramping up. The paradox doesn’t end there, however, as the Bulls are now performing better against the NBA’s best teams instead of beating up on the lower-ranked squads like they did last season.
Last season, the Bulls went 22-27 against teams above .500 while being a dominant 24-9 against teams below that mark. That has since changed, as Chicago now holds a record of 11-11 against winning teams and is now also 5-1 against the Eastern Conference’s top three teams in Boston, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn. Not everything has come so easily, as they also hold a paltry 4-8 record against struggling teams.
Although this huge disparity makes very little sense and Chicago’s lack of preparation can often be frustrating for fans, I must admit I’d rather watch a team that can beat anyone than a roster that routinely gets blown out by anyone competitive.
If the Bulls can make the necessary mental adjustments to start taking these bottom-ranked teams seriously, there’s hope that they can bounce back and finish the season strong. The NBA is arguably more talented from top to bottom than ever before, and these Chicago Bulls are simply not good enough to write anyone off in advance. They are good enough to beat the top Eastern Conference teams, however, and that’s not something their victims are likely to forget any time soon.