The tough 20 final update 16-4.

So back in January, I said the next 20 games would define the Bulls season.   I was simply hoping they could go 13-7 and felt they'd lock up the three seed with such a performance.   When the Bulls started off at 7-2 heading into the all-star break, we felt pretty darn good about the team.

However, the toughest stretch was yet to come, and I only increased my hopes to 14-6 record over the whole 20 games.   Well, the Bulls have outdone that effort as well finishing the stretch 16-4. 

Granted, a couple games that looked tough initially (New Orleans and Utah the second time around) ended up much easier with Chris Paul out and Deron Williams traded, but the Bulls came away winning all the big games.

Their four losses?
@Golden State, @Portland, @Toronto, and @Atlanta

Losing to Golden State and Toronto is simply inexplicable for this team, even on the road, they were up by 19 in the Atlanta game, and Portland simply had our number.    Still, losses to inferior opponents happen, and they happen a lot more on the road.  There's no use trying to quantify what went wrong in every game when we can instead focus on what went right.

Marquee wins:
Orlando, @Utah, @New Orleans, San Antonio, Miami, @Orlando, @Miami, Atlanta

That's eight wins against marquee teams with four of those coming on the road.    I'll take that any day. 

The result?   The tough 20 proved where the Bulls were alright.  It proved they're contenders for the title.  It proved they have a chance at taking the #1 seed.  It proved the Bulls aren't who I thought they were, it proved they were better.  

Soak it in Chicago, these Chicago Bulls are legit.   They aren't one of the 'try hard' Skiles era teams lacking the talent and making up for it on effort.   They're ready to rumble with anyone in the league.  

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  • Great posting, Doug! It's time to go All in and BELIEVE! Look at schedules, especially Boston, and feel confident in the #1 Seed in the east. Look at our home record, and you have to feel pretty DAMN good these days! We're in it for real, this year and maybe for years to come... The biggest question now comes when we're under pressure to more experienced playoff teams (Boston, LA). Can our defense and our depth (and hence also our ability to absorb injuries) make up for our balls turning to jelly as we stand there on the foul line with the game on the line? History says NO, across most sports, that playoff experience beats young raw talent most times - but we don't often see teams like these Bulls, not in any sport. With the experience of the coach, the depth and VARIETY of our weapons (how cool was it to start Jo at 5 and Big Sexy at 4! - Scoring AND defense, and even better rebounding!), this is a pretty unconventional team, and it's a pretty weird damn year! I've long thought there was a window of special opportunity here - Miami not fully ready yet, Boston and LA vulnerable - Man, I've watched this team a long time, since the Good Years, and I've rarely had a more truly amazingly FUN season! The longer it goes on, the better...

    BTW, it's clear that this team has a philosophy and feeling that carry over from the Jordan and Phil Jackson years, by way of John Paxson, and I think this new team will make the old Champions PROUD in every way!

  • In reply to petert23:

    "... it's clear that this team has a philosophy and feeling that carry over from the Jordan and Phil Jackson years, by way of John Paxson ..."

    We're trying to join the Celtics / Lakers franchise conversation. Prove that drafting Jordan wasn't catching lightning in a bottle. That we can become a franchise with a culture of winning by doing it in multiple eras. We're about to enter Act II and I love it!

  • In reply to petert23:

    Doug, I agree with your perspective. I think it is also important to point out that the roster was nearly completely remade, the Bulls were without key players at different time this stretch, as well as having nagging injuries. The long and short of it is that this team has endured serious adversity and come out with a superlative record.

    These facts bode well for the future. I think now they need to start tuning up for playoff basketball - most importantly, developing the killer instinct and putting teams down in the 3 / 4th quarters. We're not quibbling about Bogans any more.

  • In reply to petert23:

    Bulls fans are enjoying and believe in this team. But, the national perspective is very much skeptical(see Jeff Van Gundy yesterday).
    We know he makes all kinds of crazy forecasting(like Miami winning 72 games) but he also likes Thibs. So, I think there is a lot of belief that the Bulls are a team who are over-achieving by playing great defense on teams who are not as prepared as they are going to be during the playoffs. I guess unless we get to ECF, this season will be a learning experience. I think they can get there definitely if they get the #1 seed.
    We just have to wait for the season to unfold to convince the skeptics but meanwhile we will enjoy our team and Rose's skill-set.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    If Jeff Van Gundy doesn't think the Bulls are good that makes me feel even more confident! ;)

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Bulls all the way!

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    These may not be the "try hard" Bulls of the Skiles era, but I read things all the time about how no NBA team plays harder for longer than the Chicago Bulls. On one hand this makes me proud - every fan should want their team to play hard all the time. But I wonder if the Bulls have another level they reach in the playoffs. They're going to need to be better on offense to win a title.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Boston losing to New Jersey, down 7 with 35 seconds remaining! WOOOO!!!! Bulls tied with Boston in the loss column!,/b>

  • In reply to Edward:

    With one game to play against Boston the Bulls destiny is in their own hands now.

    Bulls have to be firm favourites to get the #1 now given the easier schedule (especially road schedule) they have compared to Boston.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    I'm actually more worried about losing the #1 seed to Miami than to Boston at this point. Miami just put the league on notice that they can in fact beat elite teams. And after the host OKC and go to ATL in the next two games, their schedule looks pretty ass-easy from there on out. Boston is foundering, losing three out of their last four to not very good teams.

  • In reply to Ufficio:

    We don't know what to make of this. Boston goes through these struggles every year. That said, Miami as you say looks like are peaking at the right time. The one advantage Miami has if they keep beating up teams by 20+ points is they can rest LBJ,Wade and Bosh. The Bulls better have Deng and Rose rested for the playoffs.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Yes, Bulls destiny is most definitely in their own hands. With Miami back on track, I think Bulls must guard against playing down to opponents level, especially on the road. They

  • In reply to Edward:

    Being in Chicago I am so surprised at how little Bulls stuff there is here!! One of the ladies said this is the most bulls stuff they've had/sold in a long time becausethey are actually good now! Also Crumbs you were so right about giodoras it blows unos out of the water! Not even close!! Thanks man!! Anyone know any good hot dog places?? I'm staying on michigan!

    Be watching the bulls tomorrow! I love the UC but it is quiet compared to the ESA in utah! I dunno its weird!

    Nice write up Doug... As others have said I'm worried about Miami taking the top spot!!!

  • In reply to Edward:

    I agree that the Bulls "are ready to rumble" provided everyone's healthy. As much as I wanted to trade one of the bigs for Mayo(only because I thought we could honestly win this year with a legit SG) now in the playoffs they will be invaluable. That's provided the league's No.1 or 2 defense gets the respect they deserve, and Taj and Omer don't get fouled out of time on the court/games.

    Miami concerns me because they have two studs, and possibly the game's best closer in Wade. And as others have stated those guys will be where the money is, and therefore will get the calls big time in the playoffs(Wade and Lebron). That just gives a team huge invincibility factor/takes all the pressure off their shooters.

    But the Bulls kept their bigs, and have D-Rose at PG. I could see the inexperienced Bulls dropping one of the first two even with home court. But then maybe they get their bearings, and take it to a game 7. And if Derrick is as good as he looked in that last Miami game then maybe he and Joakim(yes Joakim) pull out that Game 7.

    My thing continues to be JoJo. If Joakim "Dream II"(Electric Bugaloo??) is the player he has shown in past playoffs growing, and getting better as star playoff performers do then November Jo is for real. I look for Jo's offensive game to return. The off hand driving hooks/layups. The post hooks left and right. The T(Tornado) J. I look for him to average 14-15ppg the last two to three weeks of the season with 13-14 boards(and 4 ast.) a game. If that happens, then Chicago just might send Wade and Bron Bron fishing of the Flordia Keys(where they can go jump in the ocean). And C.J. Wwwaaaaaatttttsssoonnnn needs to emegre as a legit offesnive weapon most likely as well.

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    Rose has started getting some star calls/fouls recently.

    If all goes well a Bulls/Miami series will happen in the ECF. That tiebreaker over Miami is HUGE.

  • In reply to MarkNorman:

    Hell yeah! Celtics lost. Now tied in tholumn. Bulls control their own destiny for the #1 seed.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    "tied in the loss column" it should read

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    wow. its just now hitting me that we have the inside track to get home court throughout all 4 rounds of the playoffs, especially with the way Boston has been playing, and with how vulnerable San Antonio looks. Wow.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Heats demolition of the Spurs last night worries me that they now might run out their remaining games. If thats the case we can now only afford to lose 3 more games; a tough ask but definitely do-able so long as we don't drop games to the Wizards etc. With the Heat streaking we NEED the #1 slot so Heat v Celtic in round 2. With Celtics slipping again (hopefully the trend will continue) it means that da Bulls have their final slot in their own hands.

    We BELIEVE Bulls 14-3 to finish the season and #1 spot is ours!!

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    "Convince the skeptics" like you schaumburgfan! I can proudly say that I've been riding this horse from the start!
    As far as Jeff Van Gundy is concerned, ALL NEW YORKERS LIKE ME KNOW HE'S OVERRATED!
    Pat Riley made him! His brother, Stan, is also overrated, Riley proved it by taking over a Miami team that was suffering under Stan and brought them back from an 0-2 deficit against a tough Dallas Mavericks team managed by Avery Johnson to sweep them in the other games and win the NBA Championship. That was the end of Stan! Jeff Van Gundy with the loser Patrick Ewing and John Starks couldn't get it done in the clutch in their lone attempt in the NBA finals. Those players were Riley's players and the system was Riley's system which Jeff Van Gundy was a part of when he was Riley's assistant. The team had questionable talent and that is why Showtime Riley became GRIND IT OUT RILEY, a rough and tumble set of players who beat you up physically to make up for what they lacked in pure talent.
    Jeff Van Gundy, like his brother Stan is overrated!

  • In reply to petert23:

    This is a special year, cause there are no expectations only hopes - Expectations and pressure will come in future seasons. For now they continually surprise us and accomplish what we never expected in our wildest dreams - #1 in the East! Are you serious?!!

    The Bulls have been the under-dogs, the dark horse and its a great feeling! I would love it if we had a Bulls-Celtics ECF and Bulls had revenge, just like Joakim promised...

  • In reply to anasemaj:

    Like the Rose adidas ad "we're not the best or the greatest of all time, but we're running up on you"

  • Good Lord! That's amazing. Especially considering 3 of those 4 loses c/should have been W's.

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