It has been a tough week for our Bulls in their pursuit of the 1972 Lakers. After having their 18 game winning streak snapped by the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, they fell again to the Phoenix Suns last night thanks to a monster 35 point performance from Charles Barkley.
Despite the back-to-back losses, the Bulls come into tonight's game with the Golden State Warriors at 41-5, running even with the record-setting Lakers who racked up the exact same record through 46 games.
This could be a fun matchup: as of tonight, the Bulls and Warriors sit atop the league in points per game (Bulls lead the league with 106.1 PPG, while Golden State is second with 105.9 PPG). The difference, however, comes on the defensive end, as the Bulls allow a mere 94.4 PPG, and the Warriors allow 106.5 - not only more than they score themselves, but the second worst mark in the league.
Of course, the Bulls also have Michael Jordan, and we all know how that goes sometimes.
Tom Dore and Red Kerr have the call of tonight's game on SportsChannel on your TVs. For the more audio inclined (and for those of you who don't have cable TV) that'll be Neil Funk and Harvey Catchings on WMAQ 670.
Tonight the Bulls take on the Warriors at the United Center. Oh boy.
Not much else needs to be said or written about the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors. In brief: They are the class of the league, number one offense, the defending champs, and had a 24 game winning streak to start the season. They trounced Cleveland on Monday 132-98, and although they have fallen behind the pace set by the 1995-96 Bulls, 70+ regular season wins remains a real possibility.
This team not only has the stars in Stephen Curry (reigning MVP) and Klay Thompson; but also the ultimate do-everything player and nightly triple-double candidate Draymond Green; last season's Finals MVP Andre Iguodala now coming off the bench full time; an emerging Festus Ezeli playing in a center time-share with Andrew Bogut; Harrison Barnes continuing to develop; and of course the good bench, exceptional coaching staff (with or without Steve Kerr this season [get well soon Steve!]), stellar front office, and supportive team ownership.
As for the Bulls, they remain in the thick of it in the East (for what it's worth) despite a recent rough patch. After winning 6 straight they hit a bit of a skid themselves, and are 2-4 in since January 9, though that includes a victory on Monday over the Pistons in Detroit. Previously, the Bulls dropped a game that was kind of tight for a little while against the Warriors back in November.
The Bulls' roster has changed since that game, though, at least in terms of available players. #NationalTVKirk Hinrich will unavailable tonight, and while I know we all like to rag on the guy, he provided some tough defense on Steph Curry, and contributed some little things towards last November's moral victory. Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks sat out the last game against GSW but figure to play this time around. Joakim is also out...but I don't want to talk about him...it's too soon. (/cries for a minute but then composes self)
There's a reason why the games are played, not just in the NBA but in all sports. Nobody knows what will happen, and on any given night any team can win. Certainly some outcomes might have better odds of happening, but we will never live in any of those alternate universe strands that yielded those different outcomes: all we have is the one that actually happens.
This is a way of saying that of course the Bulls COULD win tonight. They tend to play up to good opponents (and play down to bad ones). It's the 50th Anniversary Game (and 80's Night!), and what better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary than with a victory over the Warriors, the first team with a realistic chance to break the 72 win record since the standard was set? Let's preserve our record and then NOT be all Miami Dolphins about it!
I know I'm hoping for a Bulls win (I always am) but I'm also bracing myself for a Stephen Curry takeover, one of those games where opposing fans throw up their hands and say something along the lines of "what can you do?"
Back in the 1995-96 season I remember watching a bunch of games like that. The Bulls would either take a lead early and never let it go, or the other team would stick around just long enough to see Michael Jordan happen, and make their eventual loss truly hurt. "We had a chance!" they would say. When the Bulls actually lost to the Denver Nuggets that season, 9 year old Brandon couldn't handle it. Then when they lost again two nights later to Phoenix? Even worse.
But the game I didn't remember from that stretch, until looking it up earlier this season, was their next game against the Golden State Warriors. It didn't look like a particularly notable game, except that the Bulls won, ending their only losing streak of more-than-one that season. Jordan dropped 40 and from the box score looked like he dragged the team across the finish line (I didn't have cable in those days so I know I didn't watch it). But it's definitely not one of the games we remember from that season. It's not the playoffs, it's not win number 70, it's not a 50-point Jordan game. It's just another game for the pace-setters, just another win for a team that racked up 71 others. Maybe that's us on the receiving end tonight. When you've got the roster, the injuries, and the talent of a team like the Bulls, going up against a team like the Warriors, loaded in just about every way? We've got enough to make it not a bloodbath, and but also not a squeaker. One where we just...I won't say it, but really, what can you do.
If you're heading to the game, don't be surprised if there is a protest (and remember, #ResignRahm!), and leave time to get through security. Maybe try to get a 50th anniversary shirt (but I'm heading to the game too, so leave one for me!).
Check out Golden State Of Mind for Warriors coverage here on SBNation.
Game is on Comcast SportsNet locally and ESPN TV nationally. Keep enjoying the last season of the Bulls on WMVP 1000 on your radio dial.
Like Joakim says: have fun, be good, go Bulls.
In a season that has been full of wins, this one will go down as...one of them. After being close all night the Bulls pulled away in the fourth, building a 7 point lead in the final seconds before a Jon Barry 3-pointer brought the final to 99-95, Chicago on top.
Tonight's game ended up not unlike others we've seen this season: Michael Jordan does what he has to do to win the game, and in this case almost single-handedly put an end to this two-game skid. MJ finished the night with 40 to lead the team, while Scottie Pippen had 15 and Steve Kerr had 12; everyone else finished in single digits. Number one overall pick Joe Smith put in 23 for Golden State, along with 15 for former Bull BJ Armstrong in the losing effort.
The Bulls head to the All Star break at 42-5, now officially one game ahead of the pace of the 1971-72 Lakers, who had a record of 41-6 at the same point.
Can it happen, 70 wins? An NBA record? Maybe now we can really start talking without it feeling a little weird. If nothing else, this will make the Bulls' 30th anniversary season a little more interesting heading down the home stretch of the season, distracting us until our eventual return to the playoffs.