Four games into the season it'd be silly to say the season is on the brink. However, if the Bulls can't get on track against a winless Jazz team at the United Center the talk of patience amongst the fans may quickly shift to full blown panic.
Four games isn't enough to cause mass finger pointing or hysteria. However, if the Bulls fall to 1-4 with a loss against one of the worst teams in the NBA while playing at home? It won't be pretty. It shouldn't be pretty. It's hard to imagine that five games in the season could be on the brink of melting down, and it probably won't be. The Bulls ARE better than this.
However, if they can't find their shot, their defense, and their mojo continues to go out the window, the Bulls might be looking at the draft a lot harder than they're looking at the playoffs. Silly words so early I know.
However, the worst case scenario isn't beyond reason. Derrick Rose simply might not ever become Derrick Rose again. Luol Deng has trended down a a shooter for several years despite his laughable all-star appearances. Jimmy Butler may simply not be as good as we want him to be.
Even in all those cases, the team isn't THAT bad, but a team with championship aspirations which is struggling with a management/coaching feud, players returning from injury, and free agency of a core guy, and the weight of expectations.... Well things could come crashing down.
That's why a game against the Jazz is either a godsend or a curse. A few quick wins and the Bulls can recapture their stride. The tension can be lowered. The wolves can be kept at bay, and the finger pointing won't start. However, if the Bulls start losing to the dregs of the league? Well, we saw what happened in 07/08, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that it could happen again.
The Jazz stink
Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kantor, Alec Burks, Richard Jefferson, and John Lucus III. That's who their biggest per minute guys are. Hayward is probably the best guy in the group, but the Bulls should match up well with him defensively. Kantor offers something inside as well, but Noah be able to keep a handle on him.
The rest of the perimeter guys are shooting scary low percentages. The Bulls should hold this team to sub 80 points tonight.
On the offensive end, who knows if the Bulls can get things going, but this is a team without any lock down defenders, nor is their interior defense anything special. A Bulls team that's attempting to thrive on motion and passing should find plenty of openings against this young rather undisciplined group.
Rose hasn't played a complete game yet, but who's going to check him tonight? Rose should have a free pass to dominate the hell out of the Jazz unless there are just automatic double teams in which case we'll have to hope the Bulls anemic offense can score in 4-3 situations.
Though honestly? I'd guess Rose could probably fight through most double teams given the guys the Jazz would double with.
The Bulls biggest problem this season has been Rose not quite in sync. He looks good athletically, but his game seems to have disappeared. Tonight is the prime opportunity to build up some confidence again.
Can the Bulls play for 48 minutes?
Chicago has put up some quality first halves, but they haven't finished. They gave up 60 and 58 points in the past two second halves against Indiana and Philadelphia to blow half time leads [and a huge one against Philly].
I don't know if Tom Thibodeau is having everyone smoke joints at half time, watching Bugs Bunny, or participating in some meditation. However, I do know the Bulls have seemed to lack urgency in the second half of games. They've struggled to get loose balls, rebounds, and hustle plays at the end. This was also quite notable against the Knicks even though the Bulls escaped with a win.
This is the type of thing that Thibodeau loses sleep over and needs correction. Losing a game, missing shots? Sure. It happens. Lack of effort? Lack of hustle? That shouldn't be a problem with this group, but it has been.
Bulls will get it done
While I admit that I'll even start to panic a bit if the Bulls drop this one, I don't expect it to happen. Chicago has too much talent and urgency to drop a game to the Jazz. The Bulls will find a way to get it done.
Filed under: Game Threads