This Week in the Bulls is back.
Objectively, our Chicago Bulls had no business beating the Spurs on Thursday night. San Antonio entered with a gaudy 18-4 record buoyed by a run of 13 wins in their last 14 games. For their part, the Bulls were in something that felt close to a free-fall: losers of three straight and tumbling back to the mediocrity everyone predicted this summer.
There was one thing the Bulls had going for them, and it was the most powerful thing of all. The Bulls simply do not lose Thursday night home games on TNT:
My favorite stat: #Bulls have won 15 straight home regular-season games on TNT on Thursday nights. Chicago hosts San Antonio tonight on TNT.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 8, 2016
Make it 16. The Bulls never trailed on their way to a 95-91 win. This streak is somewhere between remarkable and spooky right now, and it’s also the chief source of any confidence we’ve had in this franchise over the last few years.
The last time the Bulls lost a Thursday night home game on TNT was against the Heat on February 21, 2013. Since then, they’ve busted the Knicks’ 13-game winning streak, beat the Knicks again on a game-winning D. Rose floater, stunned the Thunder with an E’Twaun Moore corner three and beaten LeBron’s team three times.
Kristian Winfield has a full breakdown of every win in this streak at SBNation.com.
That doesn’t even take into account snapping the Heat’s 27-game winning streak in 2013 (which happened during a Wednesday ESPN game) or the win the Bulls just had over Cavs this month (a Friday ESPN game). There was also my favorite victory ever, when the Bulls beat the Warriors in Oracle behind a hilarious 30-points-on-33-shots performance from Rose. It was one of only two home losses for the Dubs all season.
We all know the flip side of this, too. Win the big games, lose the dumb, easy ones. Beat LeBron’s Cavs and get smoked by the Mavericks. Top the Rockets and lose to the Magic. The Bulls have been doing this for years and that’s why we know Saturday’s game against a 7-15 Heat team could very well be a loss.
What’s incredible is that the personnel and the coach doesn’t really seem to matter. The team that took floor against San Antonio has only Jimmy and Taj in common with the one that started this ridiculous run in 2013. You can change out Thibs and almost the entirety of the rotation and the Bulls are still the exact same: winning these big spotlight games, then losing easy ones to bad teams.
I’ll admit: I love watching the Bulls win these marquee matchups, but I’m past the point of ascribing extra meaning to it. This is what the Bulls do and it keeps them as weird as ever. The more things change with this organization, the more they stay the same.
tajgibson22 They called me Finger Roll Papi tonight!!
It took eight years, but Taj Gibson finally has a nickname. While I would normally abide by the governing rule that a person can’t be allowed to give themselves a nickname, there are exceptions. We’re making one for Finger Roll Papi right now.
SEAN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Name a more iconic duo. (via IG/@bobimarjanovic13) pic.twitter.com/barbSqNFIw
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) December 8, 2016
Is anyone else surprised that MJ doesn’t look that short in this picture? Boban has nine inches on him! Jordan remains the greatest at everything, even taking pictures with tall guys.
Rajon Rondo, forever alone
We need to talk about Rondo, because this would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t the exact thing that’s killing the Bulls’ halfcourt offense. Opposing defenses have been blatantly disrespecting Rondo as a spot-up shooter all year. There are a million examples of this:
People who defended the Rondo signing pointed to his career-best 36.5 percent mark from three-point range last year. That number has only dipped slightly so far this season to 33.3 percent, but we’re seeing it still doesn’t matter. Defenses will continue to cheat off him to help elsewhere because he’s so tentative to take the shot, even if he makes a couple.
The lack of shooting isn’t even the thing that drives you crazy with Rondo. For a player who is supposed to have superior basketball IQ, he has absolutely no concept of when to switch and when not to on defense. Plays like this happen every game:
He’s also still deferring too often on offense near the rim. He’s been accused of hunting assists in those situations, but I also think he’s just generally terrified of getting fouled, because he can’t make a free throw.
The numbers are hard to argue with:
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 5, 2016
The problem here, put simply: Butler and Wade need the ball in their hands as much as possible. Rondo isn’t a threat without the ball. It’s hard to build an effective offense with that type of hard ceiling on your point guard.
It’s amazing the Bulls have been able to overcome this to a degree to rank No. 11 in offensive efficiency, but if you look at the numbers they’re a lot closer to No. 14 than they are to No. 10.
Anyway, I thought Sharp put it well:
Spiritually, Rondo is already on the Shanghai Sharks
— Andrew Sharp (@andrewsharp) December 5, 2016
The Rajon Rondo experience through 20 games is …. going about how we expected. That isn’t good. Of course, even he gets the primetime bump with a triple-double against the Cavs and finishing one assist short last night against San Antonio.
Update your records accordingly
— Felicio (@IamFelicio) December 2, 2016
Since we love Felicio, this is the Felicio section. How good was that tip-dunk off Elevator Doors for McDermott last night?
Cristiano Felicio putback dunk pic.twitter.com/MwuVG16EaC
— ⓂarcusD2.0 (@_MarcusD2_) December 9, 2016
So good, is your answer.
— chuck swirsky (@ctsbulls) November 29, 2016
Get you a big Brazilian man who can do both.
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