With the Boston Celtics in Chicago to take on the Bulls in what could well end up as an Eastern Conference preview, we'll focus just on the Bulls and what they're saying coming into the game.
When a team has won 16 of its last 18 games, that’s a question that should be asked delicately. But after another lackluster home victory, it can’t be ignored either.
The Bulls emerged as a championship contender with an eye-opening 15-3 stretch after the West Coast trip in February. They beat the Spurs and Heat at home and the Heat and Magic on the road, then won seven games in an eight-game stretch by an average of 21 points, capped by 30-point blowouts of the Kings and Hawks on the road. They looked unbeatable.
Since then, the Bulls started showing signs of a team that has hit a mental, if not physical, wall. They’ve struggled to put away the Grizzlies, Bucks, Pistons, Raptors and Suns — borderline playoff contenders at best. They lost decisively to the 76ers at home. The only blowout was against the hapless Timberwolves.
There have been some ideas about what the cause is: Noah's health, Boozer's health, Rose/Watson/Gibson/Bogans being banged up, teams finding success using small lineups. I looked at the basketballvalue lineup data to try to test these, and you download the spreadsheet here. As a qualifier, because of the sample sizes, this post is meant to try to figure out what happened instead of what's happening, if that makes any sense