Bernstein: Bulls’ Struggles Unprecedented, For Them

By Dan Bernstein–

CHICAGO (WSCR) — If these games against the Pacers seem closer than they should be, that’s because they are.

Our memories of the Bulls as the #1 seed in the Eastern conference may be hazy, since we have to go back to the five times they earned that position during the six-title run that began in 1990-91 and ended in 1997-98.

So we compared this Indiana team to other opponents and results from the Bulls’ other 1-vs.-8 matchups, and found nothing to alleviate any discomfort caused by watching a 62-win team have to run its motor at high RPMs to survive two games at home, needing more clutch play from Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver and others even after the visitors lost their starting point guard to an ankle injury.

First, the Pacers’ 37 wins are fewer than those of any eight-seed faced by a Michael-Jordan-era title team, so it’s not like these struggles can be explained by a tougher-than usual opponent in that slot, even if they finished 20-18 after Frank Vogel took over as coach and sped up their game.

(In case you’re curious, of the six years involved, only 1992-93 saw a team finish ahead of the Bulls in the conference – the Knicks had 60 wins that year to the Bulls’ 57)

The ’91-’92 Miami Heat won 38 games, and the ’90-’91 Knicks won 39. First-round foes in the second group of titles – Miami, Washington and New Jersey – posted respective win totals of 42, 44 and 43.

These series were all best of five, and each one was a sweep. Of the fifteen total games, the Bulls won nine of them by more than ten points, seven by fifteen or more, four by at least 20, two by 30 or more, and one by 41.

Second, the average margin of victory in the current series, 5.5, is so far the lowest of any first round against an eight-seed. The ’90-’91 Knicks were dispatched by an average of 20, and the Heat the next year by 18. The 72-win Bulls blew past the Heat in ’95-’96 by an average of 23. In ’97-’98, the Nets were 7.7 points behind.

The next-closest anyone has played a top-seed Bulls team were the mostly unmemorable ’96-’97 Washington Bullets (those of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Rod Strickland…and Gheorghe Muresan) who lost the three games by 12, 5 and 1 – an average of 5.7.

And this is before hitting the road for the games Thursday and Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The meaning of any of this is debatable, of course, since these Bulls have played sluggishly against lesser teams all year, and sharpened their play when in against tougher competition. Also, their status as top dog in the conference does not seem as commanding as it did during the glory years. They earned it, no doubt, but it was less a tear through the schedule than a dutiful stacking of wins that required the kind of all-out effort from their full roster that we’ve seen so far in the playoffs.

It’s all new, and it’s unfamiliar. This is the first-ever top-seeded Bulls team to compete in a best-of-seven first round series at all, and the NBA has changed since the Bulls were last in this spot. Different rules and trends, and players who are bigger, longer and faster.

But if it seems strange to you that games this early on in the playoffs have been so difficult for a team supposed to be the best in its conference, there’s good reason.

It’s something we really have not experienced before.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein:  Bulls Struggles Unprecedented, For Them

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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  • Larry Horse's Arse

    DaBoo still won both games Bernsie.
    Please, please see the glass as half-full.
    This is an exciting and fun run with DaBoo.

    • Larry

      Right LHA, but to paraphrase Duke in the 1st Rocky movie: These chumps don’t know it’s a show, they think its a damn fight.

      Bulls need to put them away now.

      • Murphs Upper-Lip

        Huge Rocky fan here, and always knew that character as “Tony” up until the most recent in the series, “Rocky Balboa.” I’d love to know if you recall him being referred to as “Duke” before the 6’th installment, Larry. I can’t ever recall that name being used…

    • AT3374

      So we compared this Indiana team to other opponents and results from the Bulls’ other 1-vs.-8 matchups, and found nothing to alleviate any discomfort caused by watching a 62-win team have to run its motor at high RPMs to “survive” two games at home, needing more clutch play from Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver and others even after the visitors lost their starting point guard to an ankle injury.

      That right there is the only problem I see with the Bulls , having to “survive” against a 37 win team .

      If Granger was more tougher mentally and their centr had a clue what he was doing out there , the Bulls might be 0-2 .

      • Noel "No Nose" Knows the News

        Wait — so these aren’t the Jordan Bulls?

        Well, let me put my Starter cap down remove my colorful wool-sweater. I’m shocked they aren’t as good.

  • The Fire and The Passion

    Can’t compare the glory year teams to this team, only thing they have in common in the number one seed.

    I miss Gheorghe Muresan

    • Beverly Brewmaster

      Mmm… Smells like cabbage.

      • Stretch Armstrong

        “Ahnd score wahn for da kids!”

        *throws basketball backwards over head*
        *hits bystander*

  • Adam

    This blog is completely irrelevant, The NBA is much more competitive than the 90’s with more athletic dominant position players. For example, look at the previous year that the Celtics won the championship. The Bulls took them for all they had. Did they still win it all?…… Yes

    • big time sucker

      what??? the celts won it in 2008 when the bulls didn’t make the playoffs, in 2009 the bulls took them to seven games, in 2010 they played the cavs,

      use fact to proove your point and by the way your point, really really wrong when a patrick ewing led team is an 8 seed, a charles barkly led team the 4 seed, larry bird mchahle robert parish and reggie lewis celtics team a 2 seed and isiah thomas joe dumars and dennis rodman pistons team a 3 seed, that’s a competitive field(90-91 nba playoffs)

  • Chet Coppock

    I can’t wait till Murph moves from Sunday mornings, to afternoon drive home during the week on ESPN 1000. The highest rated host in WSCR history willl put away the obnoxious Boers and Bernsite for good.

    • StupidPeopleFTW

      What’s a Bernsite?

    • AT3374

      Hey wait a minute …..

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      That may be the dumbest thing ever stated on this blog, which is saying a lot. Tell us all about the history of retread talkers making the leap back from Sunday AM shifts to afternoon drive. Kind of hard to make an impression on your station’s key demographic while they’re all making the walk of shame or forced to listen to radio disney while carting the kids to weekly penance.

      Ah well, at least your worthless moniker matches your worthless posts.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        And the beauty is that Chet couldn’t even keep his job as a retread talker on a Sunday AM shift.

  • londono83

    At some point “the will to win” wont be enough in 2nd or conf finals.

    • AT3374

      Agreed . Have to put these guys away next game and not give them any hope of making this a series , though Pacers may get this next one but that would be it . Bring on Dwight the reigning DPOTY and his team that can’t really play defense

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Oh, Bernsie…a little continuity in the blog would be nice.
    How was Tyler The Legend’s big 6 points last night?
    Did Boozer play well enough for you???

    • AT3374

      Booze played well but his 20/16 wasn’t as big a deal as it SHOULD have been especially with D Rose needing to bail them out again , but as they say a win is a win

    • bronzo

      My thoughts exactly Larry…where’s your Tyler NOOOOOOOOOOOOOWW (think Billy Crystal)

    • Bubbalupe

      LHA Tyler the great still had a bunch of open looks, he just missed them today. Such is is the life of a glorified 7th guy off the bench who starts because they have no one better to start.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        good point, his shooting was awful

  • Ry

    Typical Chicago fanbase in action. Bulls are up 2-0 in the playoffs, and all we do is complain about Carlos Boozer’s performance and Scottie Pippen’s commentary.

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      Uh, this fanbase is among the quickest to anoint a savior, be it Jeff Pico, Joe Borchard, Corey Benjamin, or Curtis Enis…

      The complaint is that they should be blowing the Pacers off the floor, and these games are far too close for comfort. God forbid they play like this in the conference finals against either Boston or Miami.

      There’s a more than reasonable assumption that the Bulls are going to win this series. An assumption that they should. That it would be historic if they LOST.

      You want to celebrate a 2-0 lead against a 37-win playoff team? Yeah, go do that.

      The fact that Boozer got worked by the Pacers in game 1 was indeed a legitimate concern. If you can’t see that, then you apparently have no concern that the Boo may have an issue or two against some actual NBA star-level bigs they have on the horizon in upcoming rounds.

      • Jon

        I posted this yesterday, re: Saturdays game

        “Here are the actual numbers from Saturdays game, regarding Hansbrough. They are the points scored with and without Boozer in the game:

        Vs. Boozer. 4/12 from the field for a total of nine points, including missing his first seven attempts.

        Vs. other Bull defenders. 6/7 from the field and 13 points.

        Can we please operate with facts?

      • Pulseczar

        Jon, you’re neglecting situational scoring by Hansbrough. Some of the shots he hit in crunch time against Boozer were daggers. It’s not as black and white as you seem to want it to be.

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        Apparently Jon wasn’t concerned when Psycho-T stole the ball from Boozer, made the hoop and drew the foul, from Boozer, to put the Pacer up by 10 with less than 4:00 to go because Boozer had everything under control.

        If you were satisfied with the way Boozer played Hansborough game one, then you’re a Pacer fan or you didn’t watch the game.

      • Jon

        So an entire judgment of an NBA series should be focused on a singular negative play? Boozer does need to play better, but game 1 might have been an aberration for TH, and it wasn’t entirely Boozer’s fault, as the stats I pointed out clearly state.

  • Runaway Meat-Bull

    “The meaning of any of this is debatable, of course, since these Bulls have played sluggishly against lesser teams all year, and sharpened their play when in against tougher competition”

    This was my first thought when they came out flat in both games vs Indianapolis. They’ve been playing down to lesser teams.

    It bugs me, however, that being in the playoffs hasn’t gotten them focused. I’d much rather have #1 be able to relax a bit than have the team play halfheartedly and depend on him to fix everything at the end of the game.

  • Peter (in Rogers Park)

    Ok, let me get this straight. In the ’90’s, fifteen total wins, and five distinct sets of three consecutive wins, by 1 seed Bulls teams over 8 seed opponents all produced average margins of victory greater than that of the two wins by the current 1 seed Bulls team over its 8 seed opponent. That’s all very interesting info (if you like reading awkward series of numbers in paragraph form), but I’m not sure that it has any meaning (and not only for the reasons DB eventually brought up).

    If all two game sets (even all sets of two consecutive games) among the fifteen had average margins of victory greater than that of the current two, then maybe a meaningful conclusion could be drawn, but they don’t, and one can’t. Margin of victory (while measurable) doesn’t count toward anything in professional sports, outcome does. In that respect the current Bulls are completely consistent with their ’90’s counterparts, they haven’t lost in the first round of the playoffs.


    The Bulls are very fortunate in my opinion that their first round NBA Playoff series isn’t 1-1 or 0-2 right now vs. a Pacers’ team that hasn’t resembled the one that won only 37 games in the regular season and wouldn’t even be in the playoff discussion in the Western Conference. While the Pacers have had no answer for Derrick Rose in the first 2 games, the Bulls won last night’s Game 2 despite 22 turnovers and 38% field goal shooting. If they think they can do that again in Games 3 & 4 down in Indianapolis Thursday & Saturday respectively, the Bulls are sorely mistaken. Needless to say, the Bulls have to play much, much better when the scene shifts to Conseco Fieldhouse. This series vs. Indiana shouldn’t be that hard!

    As for Jerry Reinsdorf’s other team, it’s become very, very painful watching this White Sox team continue to struggle. Had David Price not had a high pitch count last night, despite the specialization that MLB has become, the Rays’ lefty could’ve gone wire to wire in sending the Sox to their 5th straight loss. It’s not just running into really good starting pitching the last 4 games, the Sox have constantly had 1-2-3 innings offensively with hits & base runners being very hard to come by. I’m also starting to wonder if the team’s big free agent prize, DH Adam Dunn, might not have been the smartest of investments after all.

  • Denver Deadite

    Does Hawks the misery end tonight? Does any one care at this point? Will Bernstein be forced to write more hockey blog entries if the NBA heads to a lockout?

    I see the NHL Wheel of Justice was spun again this morning. And a player got a 1 game suspension… for an identical hit to one he gave 2 years ago and received 20 games.


      I think the ‘Hawks get a win tonight. Vancouver has started to goon it up and the ‘hawks might just start dumping and short shifting.

    • Stretch Armstrong

      posting before “STOP TALKING HOCKEY!”

  • RealRick

    Your carping about the Bulls being up 2-0 in their series while the Lakers and Spurs are both down 0-1 in theirs is nothing short of hilarious.

  • RealRick

    Since we’re into making comparisions with the past here, I don’t remember Jordan taking the Bulls to the number one seed in the NBA in his third season in the league either.

    Just playing with your ground rules, Bernsie…

    • Big Cat


  • Bingo Brown

    It bothers me and troubles me how close these games have been. I hope the pacer’s home court “advantage” play any role in the series.

    • Bingo Brown

      I meant to say “I hope it DOESN’T play any role”

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