The Chicago Bulls are 25-7, their point differential says their record could be even better, and they’ve played 20 of their 32 games on the road. Their opening day starting two guard has played in only 11 of their games so far. Two of the best players, point guard Derrick Rose and small forward Luol Deng were named to the All Star team.
Tally it up and this is an impressive half season. That’s why it strikes me as over-reaching to point out that before last night’s 89-80 win over the Boston Celtics that it had been six weeks since the Bulls had beaten a team with a winning record. It’s true but two things get my goat about this. For one, there are mitigating circumstances in the Bulls *only* going 18-6 since their 97-83 win over Orlando. In five of those six losses, the Bulls were without either Rose or Deng. So the takeaway shouldn’t be that the league’s best team has a gaudy record by beating up on cream puffs; it should mean that the playoff bracket is sufficiently balanced that a top team can’t beat another top team without a full deck (though last night’s win may argue otherwise).
The second thing that pisses me off about the commentary is that its using artificial endpoints. Before this 18-6 run that isn’t as good as it seems, the Bulls played eight games and five of them were against teams with winning records. The Bulls won all five, and three of those five were on the road.
In other words, 25-7 is a perfectly realistic picture of the Bulls accomplishments. If anything it’s not diminished by the losses to winning teams, but improved by the knowledge that the team was without 40% of its starting lineup for most of this stretch. But that’s not a very interesting story so….
Martin Johnson wrote a weekly NBA column for the New York Sun from 2003-’08, and for http://www.theroot.com from 2008-’10. His sportswriting has also appeared in the NY Times, Wall St. Journal and the Atlantic Monthly.