Have the Chicago Bulls finally found their groove? With six games to go in the NBA season, the Bulls seem to be peaking at the right time. The conversations regarding whether or not the Chicago Bulls should aim for a berth in the NBA playoffs will continue for the next two weeks. Their recent play, which has been led by Jimmy Butler, is suggesting otherwise.
Butler, along with the once banished Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo have the Bulls playing some of their best basketball these days. The Bulls are winners of three straight and five of their last seven contests. Each game has been without star shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who was lost for the regular season, according to NBA.com, with a sprained and fractured elbow.
A come from behind 106-104 victory over the Atlanta Hawks has the Bulls in the seventh seed if the postseason began today. The Bulls are in a three-way tie with the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. In the end, the Bulls could be playoff-bound by virtue of tie-breakers. This is in spite of all the questions about the direction of the Chicago Bulls as a franchise.
If every Bulls’ player performed to their peaks, the Bulls are a playoff team that could win a round or two in the postseason. This season has been a tease to say the least.
Most NBA observers feel that the Bulls should be pressing the reset button and start a full rebuild. The Bulls have not shown the ability to sustain stong play, but for a week, maybe two. Their streaky performances had the team with its back against the wall as the 10th seed two weeks ago.
A defiant Jimmy Butler told reporters after the win over the Atlanta Hawks that the Bulls are not supposed to be where they are in the standings. At least not with him leading the charge.
“Because I’m not supposed to be here anyway. I’m supposed to miss shots and I’m supposed to fail. Everybody always picks me to do that, but it’s OK. I like all the so-called pressure. I just want to go out there and show that I belong.”
As far as the Chicago Bulls are concerned, they were left for dead the moment Dwyane Wade suffered his elbow injury.
“I always look at it as nobody picked us to be in the playoffs. Nobody picked us to win anyways. I’m just out there playing basketball. I want to win, I think everybody knows that. I’m just doing what everybody asks of me, so to speak.”
The Chicago Bulls are also playing to win. Their recemt win streak can be stretched to four games with a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans this afternoon.
Some unsung heroes have stepped up their efforts as the Chicago Bulls have clawed their way up the standings. Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo were afterthoughts with the season coming to a close.
Rondo has provided the most unexpected boost. After being inserted as the Bulls’ starter at point guard, Rondo has been a spark plug. He has filled in areas where the Bulls have needed the most — scoring and three-point shooting, of all things. Rondo’s extended range has forced opposing teams to defend him, thus creating space for his Bulls’ teammates.
Both Rondo and Mirotic has been hot from behind the three-point arc, along with rookie Denzel Valentine. It has led to a steady improvement from long distance shooting and a rise in the NBA rankings.
The Chicago Bulls entered the 70-game mark of the season ranked last in three-point shooting. A hot night from distance against the Pelicans will catapult the Bulls to 26th place.
Another key factor to the Bulls’ current streak is the play of Denzel Valentine.
Valentine has taken over the role that was once held by Doug McDermott. McDermott, when hot, is a better shooter than the rookie swingman, but he failed to find his rhythm with the Bulls. Valentine is not shy when it comes to shooting the basketball, or anything else.
For the Chicago Bulls to get into the postseason it will take an extra gear from Jimmy Butler. He will have to brush off all of the NBA trade rumors surrounding his name and continue to help the Chicago Bulls peak. Getting into the postseason means a fresh Dwyane Wade can return. After that, this roller coaster ride could go in any direction.
[Featured Image by Jason Miller/Getty Images]