Coming off an unexpected but nevertheless huge win on the road against the hottest team in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls likely held high hopes they could repeat the seemingly impossible and take the 76ers out for the second time in as many games last night. The fans in the United Center likely felt that same energy too — well, at least for the first few minutes.
Not even five full minutes into the contest, the 76ers built up a ridiculous 23-1 lead, one that they’d never come close to giving up for the rest of the way. This wasn’t even a case of Joel Embiid playing particularly dominant, as the MVP candidate only logged 16 minutes before sitting the second half out while the Sixers bench brought home a 116-91 victory.
The Bulls as a unit struggled mightily after finally finding their groove and firing on all cylinders just one game ago. Chicago’s big three of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic shot a pathetic 10-for-32 from the field, with Coby White instead being forced to lead the team in scoring.
Losing to arguably the best team in the NBA right now is nothing to get upset over. In fact, I think most Bulls fans are just happy that this team managed to split the season series with Philadelphia. Losing in front of the home crowd in that manner, however, is entirely unacceptable. This up-and-down emotional rollercoaster has been the story of the season so far for this team, and has made maintaining any faith an increasingly tall ask from the fanbase.
Worst of all, Bulls star DeMar DeRozan was forced to exit last night’s game due to a right quad strain. Due to the insurmountable lead the 76ers built up, I’m hoping that this was nothing more than a precautionary measure. Still, losing DeRozan for even a few games at this critical juncture in the season would be a devastating blow to Chicago’s postseason dreams.
After dropping a potentially season-defining game against the 76ers, the Chicago Bulls must now bounce back to improve their 34-38 record.
The Bulls are now a very solid 8-5 since acquiring Patrick Beverley on the buyout market, so there’s certainly still hope to be had for a late-season run. That much is especially true when two of those five losses came on end-of-game buzzer-beaters, and the other three were to very competent teams in Philly, Phoenix, and Toronto.
Still, it’s hard to not feel like this loss just sucked all the wind out of Chicago’s sails despite winning their previous three and five of their last six games before hosting Philadelphia.
Perhaps this was just a result of playing a pair of double-overtime games against the Timberwolves and Sixers prior to last night’s game, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to continue digging up excuses when this has been a repeated problem for Chicago throughout the season.
In fact, the Bulls have compiled three-game win streaks a total of five times this season. Unfortunately, they are now 0-5 in games immediately following a third consecutive win. Every time this team begins to pick up momentum, it feels like they trip over their own feet and stumble back down the standings. Hopefully, the addition of Patrick Beverley is enough to counterbalance things this time, but the Chicago Bulls haven’t done much over the last year to inspire much hope otherwise.
With their next four games coming against three struggling teams on the west coast, the Bulls can ideally at least split the series and keep their postseason hopes alive. Chicago finishes the season schedule out on a daunting four-game gauntlet that includes games against the Grizzlies, Hawks, Bucks, and Mavericks, so winning these games now will be essential for not only getting back to .500, but also keeping the team’s morale high and hopeful for the play-in tournament.