Bulls Market: Fighting for Position

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

After bouncing up and down through the standings this week, as well as being at risk of falling below .500, the Chicago Bulls finished the week still barely holding onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 31-30.

However, the Bulls are in a virtual tie with the Detroit Pistons who won their game Sunday evening to improve to 32-31 overall. I have to admit, I’m truly shocked that I even have to be typing this. Honestly, never in my wildest dreams did I think the Bulls would actually fall out of the playoff seeding this year, but they indeed did for a short time this past week, and this should certainly give the team (especially management) pause and raise some big concerns.

Let’s look at the positives, though, over the past three or so games. It’s kind of hard to seeing as the Bulls lost to both the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, but luckily the Bulls were able to pull off a victory with a strong effort against the equally hapless Houston Rockets on Saturday night. The Rockets are basically the Bulls’ counterpart in the Western Conference. Houston goes into Monday with a 30-32 record, just barely holding onto the eighth seed by one game.

It’s actually kind of surprising to see that currently all the playoff teams in the Eastern Conference have records above .500, while the Western Conference is seeing teams like Portland, Houston and Dallas struggle to stay in that .500 range. So it was nice for the Bulls to get a good moral victory over a team that is having just as many struggles as they are. There was a scare in the first quarter of Saturday’s game when Derrick Rose went down hard, but he came back finishing with 17 points.

The bigger story of the game, however, was the return of Jimmy Butler. The young star picked up right where he left off and scored 24 points in about 34 minutes, and was only bested by Pau Gasol’s monster game. Gasol is really showing no signs of slowing down this season. It’s been great seeing him play so well, but unfortunate that his talents have to squandered on a team that is struggling so much. Gasol’s double-double included 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. It was a big improvement from the horrible game he had against Orlando just a few days before. Really though, it was the entire team that couldn’t keep up with Orlando, or Miami for that matter.

So for everything good that happened Saturday, it was prefaced earlier in the week by lackadaisical efforts against two teams that the Bulls should’ve been able to keep up with. At least we can say the Bulls improved a little bit between Wednesday and Saturday. But is it possible to have that much hope when the Bulls’ opponents this coming week include the white-hot San Antonio Spurs, and a rematch against the Heat? At least the Bulls will get to start off with a contest against the cellar-dwelling Milwaukee Bucks.

We have to keep in mind, though, that the Bulls are only six games ahead of them. If the Bulls could fall this far already, then I suppose it’s possible the falling could continue. I hope against hope that isn’t the case, and with Butler now back in action, that has to at least count for something. His return could be the mental boost the Bulls need to go on a run for the last month or so of the season. I think at this point, it’d just be nice to see the Bulls win a playoff series.

By rights, this team should be capable of much more, but we have to face the music and realize this may very well be the last year a lot of these guys on the roster will be around. Hopefully they’ll want this team to go out in style and give the fans something to really get excited about. With baseball coming up and the Blackhawks still rolling, the Bulls are slowly becoming irrelevant in the Chicago sports scene. A new hot streak with Rose and Butler playing together would be very welcome right about now.

Last Week: Lost to Miami 129-111; lost to Orlando 102-89; defeated Houston 108-100.

Next Week: Monday vs. Milwaukee; Thursday at San Antonio; Friday vs. Miami

Who’s Hot: Derrick Rose

It’s hard to say anyone is really hot right now, but Rose is at least kept up the consistency on the offensive end. He had some pretty good moves against Houston on Saturday which should’ve had some Bulls fans reminiscing about the good ol’ days.

Who’s Not: Tony Snell

Snell is slowly becoming a non-factor again. He was getting some decent minutes earlier in the week, but wasn’t able to really shine. And with players returning from injuries con Saturday night, coupled with his lacking play, he was benched for the whole game against Houston.