Last season, the Chicago Bulls advanced to the playoffs first time in five years. Sure, they were bounced out of the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games.
Despite the disappointing end to their season, though, the Bulls’ front office opted to bring back its core roster. Unfortunately, the results have been a mixed bag at best.
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For example, coming into this week, the Bulls had dropped four straight games in the span of seven days. This included a demoralizing 150-126 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That defeat dropped the Bulls to 11-18 on the season. This is hardly the result the team was hoping for. Also, reports surfaced that there was internal strife between Zach LaVine and Billy Donovan.
The Bulls managed to put the reports to rest, recording back-to-back wins over the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks. And on Friday night, they took on a New York Knicks that had defeated them twice in the span of a week and a half.
It appeared that the Bulls were going to fall to the Knicks again, as they trailed by six points in the fourth quarter. RJ Barrett, who tallied 44 points for the home team, gave the Knicks a three-point lead with 29 seconds left in regulation.
LaVine helped trim the Bulls’ deficit to one point courtesy of a driving layup with seven seconds left to play. Knicks guard Jalen Brunson missed a crucial pair of free throws, leaving the door open for the Bulls to win the game.
And thanks to DeMar Rozan, that is exactly what happened.
Thanks to DeRozan’s late-game heroics, the Bulls came away with a much-needed 118-117 victory. It marked the first time that Chicago has won three consecutive games this season.
Although DeRozan didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (9-for-21 from the field), he had a solid all-around performance. He finished with 25 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists. Even more important, as he has done during his stint in the Windy City, and throughout his career, he delivered when his team needed him the most.
Here is what the Bulls forward had to say about the game’s final sequence.
”You don’t think too much about it,” DeRozan said of his jumper from near the foul line. ”You just read the way they’re playing you. It’s second nature. I don’t care how many shots I missed before. That’s a brand new opportunity and you approach it that way.”
While the Bulls have turned things around as of late, the news isn’t all good. Alex Caruso — their best wing defender — is nursing a shoulder injury he sustained in the team’s win over the Hawks on Dec. 21.
Furthermore, despite their recent success, the Bulls are currently in 11th place in the conference playoff race. The good news is there is more than half the season left. On the other side of the narrative, you never know which version of this team is going to show up on a given night.
Coming into this season, the Bulls’ front office expected this ball club to advance to the second round of the playoffs. But based on what we’ve seen thus far, that goal seems a bit far-fetched right now.