Bullish is an attempt to parse the narrative of the Chicago Bulls season. In most seasons, it’s pretty obvious (recently the narrative centered on the health and ability of Derrick Rose), this season is much more complicated. I used to write about NBA for the New York Sun and The Root. I found then that distance was often an asset, so while I’d rather patrol the sideline and press box of the United Center, there’s insight to be had from the vantage point of my tiny Manhattan apartment too.
At the outset of this NBA season, I wanted two things from the Bulls: a regime change and a clear vision of the future. As the season wore on, it became apparent that nothing short of a Brooklyn-like performance was going to change the front office lineup, but I held out hope for a clear vision of the future. It looks like it’s taken until the first round of the playoffs, but some clarity is now available.
In their 111-97 Game 2 win over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference First Round series, the Bulls expanded on the strengths they displayed in their surprising Game One win.
Here are some likes and dislikes
The starters dominated. Can there be any denial that this is a bad matchup for Boston. The Bulls starters initiated substantial runs in each of the first three quarters, 24-6 in the first, 17-5 in the second, and 19-6 in the third. In the fourth quarter, a lineup of Felicio, Zipser, Rondo, Butler and Wade triggered a 10-0 run that made the score 105-86 with 5:17 to go and likely set the Boston fans toward the exits.
Again, coach Fred Hoiberg rode the hot hand off the bench. In Game 1, Bobby Portis fulfilled some of his substantial promise with a remarkably efficient 19 point 9 rebound game. In Game 2, it was forward Paul Zipser who earned a moment at the podium with a 16 point game on 6-8 shooting and two for three from behind the arc. He got 29 minutes of burn while Portis and Jerian Grant, another key game one contributor sat.
The Bulls have become a pretty good three point shooting team. After opening the series 0-11, the Bulls have shot a sizzling 18-39 from deep. When Boston looked to narrow the gap on the boards, the Bulls took advantage with stellar shooting from deep. No one will confuse this team for the Houston Rockets anytime soon, but they have learned to love the three ball, and it has nearing the cusp of an extraordinary upset.
Michael Carter Williams should only see the floor at garbage time. Looking for an improvement on Grant’s poor play in Game 2, Hoiberg looked way down the bench for MCW and the former Rookie of the Year showed why he’s en route to be a Jeopardy answer soon with a coupla heaves and inconsistent defense. The team has a playoff rotation and needs to stick with it.
But yeah, that’s it. This, more than Game 1, was the one that the Bulls “stole.” The Bulls shot 51% from the field against a team whose primary defensive attribute is limiting opponents field goal percentage. That isn’t likely to repeat, but the Bulls have played intelligent, poised basketball to get halfway toward an upset that will reverberate through the NBA season.