Last night the Bulls beat up the hapless Lakers by 23 handing Los Angeles their Western Conference worst 39th loss of the season. Chicago outscored LA in every quarter with Jimmy Butler leading all scorers with 26 points. Pau Gasol had a double-double against his former team with 21 and 12 while only playing 31 minutes. LA’s easily the worst team in their conference having just nine wins on the year and six more losses than the Minnesota Timberwolves who’re one spot ahead of them in the standings.
Chicago is starting to get a more balanced attack in their lineup with players like Pau, Butler, and Rose all contributing on a nightly basis. The Bulls are currently third in the East at 26-19 however they still trail the Raptors and Cavs by quite a bit for the top spots in the conference. Chicago’s been hobbled by injuries this season much like they have in recent pasts.
This year Derrick Rose has been healthy, but now the front court has taken a blow with the absence of perennial All-NBA Defensive Team big man Joakim Noah going down for the season with a dislocated shoulder he suffered on December 21st against the Nets. Noah was a huge piece to some of the Bulls’ best defensive efforts in the past orchestrated by former coach Tom Thibodeau. In Noah’s absence the slack has been picked up by players like Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Bobby Portis who all have separate skills in which to fill the void. Gibson is more of a defensive low block player, while Mirotic (Out with an Appendectomy) is a scorer and a top of the key shooter that can draw big men outside of the paint to open the lane. Bobby Portis was the Bulls’ first rounder this year out of Arkansas, and he now more than ever will need to change the fortunes of the Bulls recent blunders high in the draft.
In other Bulls related injury news SF Mike Dunleavy Jr. has returned to practice recently, even taking contact. Dunleavy has missed extensive time with a back injury and could even go through a rehab stint in the Developmental League. Dunleavy’s a scorer and pure shooter, something Chicago desperately need as they’re currently one of the worst teams in the league in shooting at 43%. Players like Tony Snell and Doug McDermott are starting to look more and more like busts as they continue to average less than 10 points a night in just over 20 minutes. Understandably they’re both still young players, but if you look at the success of Jimmy Butler who was taken with the last pick in the first round, it’s tough to say that these two former first rounders are showing value for their selection. Doug McDermott was a draft night trade after being selected by Denver 11th overall. One of the players selected by Chicago in the McDermott trade was Gary Harris out of Michigan State. Harris’ quickly turning into a very good guard averaging just over 30 minutes a night while receiving praise from the Nuggets coaching staff for being a good two-way player.
The Bulls have another nationally televised game when they play at the Staples Center against the Clippers on Sunday. It’ll be another litany test for Chicago who recently got steamrolled by the Warriors at home. Chicago did beat the Cavs on the road by thirteen, but to get recognition as a legitimate threat you need to beat the powers out west. LAC’s 14 games over five-hundred at 30-16 while being 15-7 at home this year. Chicago has a mediocre 10-10 record on the road.