By Shawn Muller–
To say that watching the Chicago Bulls play this season has been a treat would be an understatement.
Seeing this team take the court has been a blast.
The Bulls are enjoying their best season since the Michael and Scottie years: they lead the Central Division over the Indiana Pacers by a comfortable 12.5 games, Derrick Rose is having a breakout season, and the team has weathered the injury bug to key personnel for basically the entire season.
As well as the Bulls have played, however, there are definitely some concerns as we near the All-Star break.
Playing well on the road is one such concern.
Chicago is tied with the Boston Celtics for the best home record in the Eastern Conference at 23-4, but on the road, the Bulls are a pedestrian 11-12, including two straight losses on their current 5 game road swing. Chicago has not lost three straight games all season long, but, in order for that streak to continue, they better figure it out tonight, as the team heads to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz.
The main area of concern facing this Bulls team over the past couple of games– against teams they should be beating in the Golden State Warriors and a depleted Portland Trail Blazers squad—is that Chicago is not doing what they have done best all season long…play defense. The Bulls are third in the league in total team defense, giving up just 92.8 points per contest, and are tied for first in the league with the Miami Heat in opponent field goal percentage at 42 percent. The problem is, these stats don’t mean anything if you can’t keep your opponent off of the foul line.
In the 101-90 loss to Golden State, the Warriors shot almost 83% from the line, going 19-23. Meanwhile, the Bulls only managed to get to the line 13 times, making just 6 of those attempts. The free throw discrepancy was even worse against Portland. In the Bulls 109-103 loss to the Blazers, Portland was a ridiculous 37-40 from the line, while the Bulls were a measly 11-18. You are not going to win many games when your opponents are shooting a combined 56 of 63 from the stripe while you manage to go just 17-31. Getting out scored from the line by 39 points is not the recipe for success any way you slice it.
The positive aspect of the two losses it that, even with the huge difference in foul shooting attempts, the Bulls still had a chance to win both games. Chicago trailed Golden State by one point heading into the fourth quarter and only trailed Portland by three after the third. If Chicago can regroup on the defensive end, and not allow the Jazz the opportunity to dismantle the Bulls from the charity stripe, the team has a good chance of leaving Salt Lake City with a win.
A win tonight ensures that a three game losing streak will be avoided, but more importantly, it gives the Bulls an opportunity to close out the 5 game road trip with a winning record (and a winning road record overall) as they head to New Orleans to face the Hornets.
But let’s not worry about the next game…let’s just concentrate on the Utah Jazz…and minimizing fouls.
Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.
Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.