Winners in 14 of their last 22 games entering last night's contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers, things seemed to finally be turning around for the Chicago Bulls. Against all odds, this team has managed to overcome adversity and claw their way back into the playoff picture, currently sitting 9th place in the Eastern Conference and still well within reach of avoiding the play-in tournament altogether.
And yet, the truth surrounding this roster couldn't be any clearer than it was last night, as the Bulls once again choked away a big opportunity to prove they belong with the best teams in the East. Down two of their best players in Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, Cleveland should have been easy prey for any true playoff contender.
Instead, the Bulls would lose the game handily 91-109, as the offense once again fell apart when it mattered the most. Chicago shot a horrid 9-for-32 from beyond the arc, an inexcusable 28.2% clip that marks the 13th time this season that the team has failed to hit 10 three-pointers in a game.
Nobody stood out offensively for Chicago, as no player crossed the 20-point threshold. Coby White led the team with 18 points, but shot a horrendous 5-for-15 from the field in the process. DeMar DeRozan, on the other hand, was practically invisible as he contributed just 6 points while continuing to play his typically poor defense. Nikola Vucevic also submitted a particularly poor 8-for-19 shooting performance as Jarrett Allen dominated him on both ends of the court,
Despite their improved play as of late, the Bulls are still not contenders and desperately need a change of direction.
In the end, Chicago's poor play simply didn't grant them enough fuel to get across the finish line in an otherwise winnable game. Perhaps that is why this loss is so frustrating. This game was very winnable. The Bulls even possessed an 81-80 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Things fell apart from there, however, as Cleveland ripped off a 29-10 run to finish the game and played like a much more disciplined team than the Bulls have all season.
Donovan Mitchell once again made the Bulls his punching bag, as the superstar guard dropped 34 points and 7 assists while converting on 11 of his 21 shot attempts. Whereas injuries have continually been an excuse for Chicago's lack of success, Mitchell and the rest of the Cavaliers proved last night that good teams can still make things work even when the deck is stacked against them.
With all the talent on this roster, there's simply no excuse for these failures to be a repeated theme. Whether it comes to the coaching, the talent on the roster, or their fit together matters very little in the end. This current concoction is not a recipe for success. While DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Vucevic each have merits in their own right, they are not a trio who complement each others strengths.
Now more than ever, it's obvious the Bulls need to split the band up. Chicago's front office needs to change gears and reshape the team with players who can play fast, give effort on defense, and put the young talent — namely Coby, Patrick Williams, and Ayo Dosunmu — in a position to succeed moving forward.