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Chicago Bulls Road Woes Will Cost Them In The NBA Playoffs....

Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

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The old saying goes "To Be The Best, You Need To Beat The Best."  Meaning to become the absolute top of your craft, you need to find a way to be better than the top of your field.  Businesses around the world use this saying as a way to motivate their employees always to go that extra mile because it is always better to be the best in your position/field.  We all want it and while only some of us strive to be the best in our professions, the desire to be better is always there.  


The NBA is no different.  The Chicago Bulls are currently the third best team (record wise) in the Eastern Conference at a record of 34-16 only trailing the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.  Outside the San Antonio Spurs you could argue that the Chicago Bulls are the most surprising team in the league while they continue to win games missing key pieces of their starting rotation.  You could also say that the reason behind the success of the Chicago Bulls is because they have the MVP of the league in Derrick Rose running the point for them. 


Although I am not ready to hand over the MVP to the first overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls could have a real problem come the playoffs that has nothing to do with any health issue of any player on the floor.  In fact it is something so small that most fans do not even recognize it.


As good as the Bulls 34-16 record may feel, did you know they are the only division leader with an under .500 record on the road?  It's true!  Of the six divisions in the NBA, the Bulls currently have a game under .500 record (11-12) while the rest of the division leaders all have road records of eight games over .500 on average.  Now of course you could look into the notion that the Bulls have been playing without Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for most of the season.  In fact if you are counting at home, the Bulls have played nine games total all year with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah in the lineup  winning seven of those.  


As impressive as the Bulls have been without their stars in the lineup on a nightly basis, it needs to concern Bulls fans heading into the playoffs that the Bulls are a great home team, but a sub-par team on the road.  To me the mark of a good team in the NBA is one who almost dominates on their home turf and plays .500 ball on the road.  However when you dive into the 11-12 record on the road, you also need to look at how they played against playoff caliber competition.  For instance, of the 11 wins on the road, only two are against teams currently with an over .500 record (Memphis, Dallas).  Looking more into the numbers, the Bulls on the road are also 5-3 against teams under .500 in the East.  Against teams that would currently make the playoffs in the East, the Bulls on the road are 1-4.    


So what does this all mean exactly?  


When the Bulls make the playoffs, they will surely host a first round series because they are the only team that is undefeated in their division.  A 12 game lead in the Central also helps.  However as important as it is to win at home in the playoffs, it is even more important to win on the road in the postseason as well.  Looking back at the last nine seasons of the NBA, the numbers do not favor the Bulls if they indeed finish the season with an under .500 record on the road.    



Since the 2001-2002 season, there have been 72 teams who hosted first round playoff series.  Of those 72 teams, 21 of them (29%) had under .500 road records at the end of their respective regular seasons.  Of those 21 teams, only five made it past the second round of the playoffs.  So of the last 72 teams to enter the NBA postseason hosting the first round of the playoffs, only five of those teams (7%) went on to the Conference Championships with a losing road record in the NBA regular season.    


By the way, of those five teams....none won the NBA Title.  


I am not one who expects this Chicago Bulls team to do much more than a second round appearance this season.  I expect with the amount of time the "core" of this team has had to play together, their inexperience of playing together in game situations will hold them back this year.  Plus you add on top the amounts of minutes Derrick Rose and Luol Deng have had to play I believe will come back to bite them when they need their legs the most.  By no means am I saying that this is a throw away year for the Bulls, but as much as the development of Derrick Rose has been accelerated I think it blinds us from the raw facts of what is to come.   



The Bulls have defended their home floor well enough where most people look past their road record, but you simply cannot do that.  You cannot be a team heading into postseason play with a poor road record against teams over .500, and also 1-4 against current Eastern Conference playoff teams on the road. Recent history has shown that teams that match the Bulls 2010-2011 resume do not fair well in the playoffs past their first round opponent.  Even with the addition of Joakim Noah to the roster coming in the next few weeks, I believe it still will not be enough to put this team past the second round of the playoffs no matter the matchup.  


Although there have been exceptions to the argument I have laid out, I just believe some Bulls fans are going to be caught in their own trap of expecting too much from this year's Bulls team.  In order for the Bulls to be the best, they have to start beating the best......including games away from the "Madhouse On Madison".  




John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and co-host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score and  


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