I'm in a select group. The group that doesn't mind the circus trip. For one, you have to go on two long west coast trips eventually, so it's not like this is some special curse for them. Every team is going to hit as many far travel days in a row as it can. Why not get the tough one out of the way early? It always leaves so much room for a strong finish.
The circus trip hasn't always spelled complete doom either. Last November the Bulls finished up the circus trip at 8-9. I said they had 4th seed potential at that point, and if they hadn't completely tanked during a weak December schedule, they would have.
This team has a long history of charging back from rough starts. It's not that they get it together. It's the schedule evening out. However, I do like the momentum that can build by getting a tough stretch out of the way early.
The Bulls enter this stretch 5-4, and it wasn't against a soft schedule either. The Bulls have only played two poor teams; the bobcats and the 76ers. They have wins against Cleveland, Milwaukee (oddly this seems impressive so far), and San Antonio. They played well in tough losses to Denver, Miami, and Toronto [let's pretend the last 6 minutes didn't happen].
All in all, the Bulls have done well so far against a tough schedule.
My goal for the circus trip is to come out of it 7-8. That requires a modest 2-4 trip. Now obviously, any given day, any NBA team can beat another team. The
96 Bulls won 72 games, but that means they lost 10 too. It's not like
those 10 losses were to better opponents, sometimes a vastly superior
team simply has an off day to an inferior one which catches fire.
Here's how the schedule matches up, and how I predict the outcome:
@Sacramento - Bulls win 65% of the time
@LA Lakers - Bulls win 25% of the time [edit - How did I not know Pau was out? Fire me!]
@Denver - Bulls win 25% of the time
@Portland - Bulls win 30% of the time
@Utah - Bulls win 35% of the time
@Mil - Bulls win 40% of the time
This accounts for the location of the game as well as the opponent and how well I perceive them to be playing at this moment. Harsh? Easy? I'm not sure, seems reasonable to me.
It's a brutal trip.
I'd love to predict something more cheery and optimistic, and if the Bulls managed to pull out a 3-3 out of this stretch by some miracle, I will likely go off on a "4th seed or bust!" rant, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. All I hope for is something short of unmitigated disaster [0-6].