Entering Thursday night's contest against the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls are sitting with the Eastern Conference's second best record at 21-12. Since the Bulls three game losing streak before Christmas, which featured Jimmy Butler's "controversial" comments about Fred Hoiberg, it feels as if Chicago may be starting to turn the corner. Chicago is 6-1 since, 3-0 in the new year, with their only loss coming in a close affair against Dallas the day after their Christmas game in Oklahoma City.
Where at one point during the last month it appeared as though the end of the world was near for the Bulls, they have seemingly become a more cohesive unit within this run of games.
Look at the Bulls team after the win. pic.twitter.com/EKS3UFKfAW— MarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 3, 2016
The offense is finally resembling (albeit to an extent) what Hoiberg's system is supposed to be. Chicago's pace and player movement within the halfcourt has improved, in addition to an influx in side-to-side ball movement. In this stretch of games, the Bulls are posting the league's third best offense (up to 22nd overall!) at 111.3 points per 100 possessions. Their defense has fallen a bit, 15th during this same stretch (down to seventh from second overall), but it's still right at 99 points per 100 possession, and they're posting the fifth best net rating of +7.8.
However, the big question now is whether or not the Bulls can sustain this level of play. And all of this comes as Chicago's schedule during the month of January, as the All Star Break nears, will be the strongest they've faced. Here's what the rest of the month looks like:
- Jan. 7th - Boston
- Jan. 9th - @ Atlanta
- Jan. 11th - Washington
- Jan. 12th - @ Milwaukee
- Jan. 14th - @ Philadelphia
- Jan. 15th - Dallas
- Jan. 18th - @ Detroit
- Jan. 20th - Golden State
- Jan. 22nd - @ Boston
- Jan. 23rd - @ Cleveland
- Jan. 25th - Miami
- Jan. 28 - @ LAL
- Jan. 31 - @ LAC
The Bulls have had some very solid wins with good margins in this recent stretch, but their overall schedule has been home-heavy. In fact, the Bulls have been near the top of the league in % of their games at home, and they have another tonight.
Of their next 13 games, eight will be on the road and 10 (assuming Washington turns it around) will come against playoff teams from each conference. Outside of the January 28th contest against the lowly Lakers, the latter part of this month specifically, will be an enormous test and could quite possibly answer key questions surrounding the Bulls.
Will Chicago continue their upward trajectory, establishing themselves as a conference contender come playoff time? Or will this stretch be a blip on the radar, and the coming games reveal the apparent need for a roster change as the Bulls continue to search for consistency?
Chicago has performed extremely well against the "elite" teams from each conference thus far. But up until this point in the season, the Bulls haven't yet faced a stretch run like they're going to. As of now, we are still searching as to what to make of this Chicago Bulls team, but the month of January could finally give us a clearer picture of just that.