Whether one win was against the lowly Lakers or not, I'll take 2-1 coming out of the break over 1-2. The win against the Raptors was big. Sure, getting smashed by Cleveland sucks, but it's tough to expect much better with a team that has been decimated by injuries. Let's look at a few things that are looking up right now for our Bulls.
This was the plainly obvious one. Derrick has been playing tons better lately. In the first three games post All Star break, Derrick has put up at least 24 points on 62+TS% in each one. Wow. Fun fact, this is the first time in his career that Rose has had 3 consecutive games shooting better than 53% from the field and scored over 24 points. That has to be a good sign, right? The problem with Rose lately had been that has scoring was much better, but he wasn't really doing much else. Rose has been rebounding really well lately too averaging almost 6 rebounds per game since the break. His passing numbers are not astonishing, but I think his passing has been tons better.
These are two great passes Rose made in transition that were not finished. The first one should have been finished by Gasol. I guess I'm not as mad that it wasn't finished as I am that he botched it so badly. Had he gone up strong, I bet he at least gets a foul call. The second one was just awful. Rose makes a great pocket pass and hits Taj right in the hands. Rose has had plenty of passes like this lately. Rose never was the best creator. Instead, he used his drive and kick ability to create shots, and he's starting to show that ability again. I like what I am seeing from Rose right now in terms of him contributing as more than just a scorer.
You probably were expecting me to talk about McDermott here, but alas, no. As much as I loved Doug's scoring the past few games, Doug is still meh to me. When he's not scoring, he provides nothing else. Against the Lakers, Doug registered 16 points, 1 foul and that's it. It was a very Snell-esque game from him (except, you know, he scored). On the season, Doug is averaging .6 ast and .8 TOV per game. That's 1.0ast/36 minutes. I've tried really hard to find other wing players that have played at least 1000 minutes and averaged 1.0ast/36 or less. The only players I found were Mike Mitchell in 81-82 (he was putting up 20ppg, so we'll forgive him, though this is still pretty bad), James Jones whose only job is to stand and shoot, Matt Carrol on a 26-56 Charlotte team, David Benoit, Bruce Bowen, Devean Geoarge, Rasual Butler, and Rodney Carney. Lot's of those guys didn't last ni the league, and the ones that did actually brought some defense to the table. In short, still not impressed with Doug.
Back to MDJ. He's starting to show signs of life. He is where he is supposed to be defensively, and he's already averaging more assists and steals and blocks per 36 than McDermott as a 35 year old coming off of major back surgery. He's better than the other wing options we have, so it's nice to see him back and starting to look better.
There are however, plenty of things still trending down.
Bulls 4th Quarters
The Bulls are an awful 4th quarter team. Awhile back, I did some analysis on every team's 4th quarter net rating compared to the rest of the game.
At the time, the Bulls had the third worst Net Rating drop in the 4th quarter. For a team that is already not good, that is terrible. If you just look at NetRtg in the 4th quarter, the Bulls are only better than the Bucks, the Knicks, and the Suns (and only barely). To me, this just screams poor coaching. You can't allow your team to be that much worse in the 4th quarter. I looked at the same stats the previous year, and with a similar roster and similar injury problems, the Bulls had a huge INCREASE in NetRtg in the 4th quarter, and were the second best 4th quarter team in the regular season. If the Bulls don't improve in the 4th quarter, they will never truly improve as a team.
Defense/Rebounding (AKA the Noah Deficiency)
Since Noah's injury, the Bulls are a much worse defensive team and rebounding team. The Bulls are now #26 in DRB%. They just gave up a 126ORtg to a team ranked 29th in offensive efficiency. Their pick and roll defense has been even worse lately. There is literally zero big (outside of maybe Taj...sometimes...maybe) who I feel confident can defend the pick and roll. If the Bulls can't find a way to be better defensively by either rebounding better or maybe just generating more turnovers (DEAD LAST IN TOV%), they will really struggle to make the playoffs.
Here's hoping the Bulls can improve a bit going forward. Butler and Mirotic returning coupled with Rose's improved play gives something to be excited about. However, the Bulls are trending downward in defense, which could make for a long rest of the season.