[thanks to Rohmeresque for today's game preview -yfbb]
Well here we are Bulls fans, another game against a struggling team that has any Bulls fan paying even the smallest attention to the season sweating bullets. With every victory there is the hope that this team has turned the corner into non-schizophrenia, but with each game following a win the diagnosis of schizophrenia remains. The Bulls are massively inconsistent, that can't be stated enough, and no one seems to have greater difficulty stringing together consecutive wins than this squad from the Midwest. With the All-Star Break just around the corner it'd be great to go into the time off with a sense of getting to the top of a hill, winning consecutive games, which has eluded them for most of the season. Then again, this is the Bulls of 2015-2016 so all bets are on the table.
On the injury front the regular candidates are out: Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic, and Mike Dunleavy Jr. Two new additions to this list are Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler who are listed as questionable. With the highly uncertain output of the rest of the roster (with the exception of Rose to a degree) missing Gasol and Butler would be a significant blow to the Bulls. On the Denver side it looks like they'll be without Jameer Nelson, Wilson Chandler, and Darrell Arthur.
With all the Bulls inconsistencies the one promising and consistent improvement (albeit it at an inconsistent rate) is the re-emergence of Derrick Rose. First off, I'd like to point out that the cries from fans and reporters for Rose's game to return to him like the flip of a switch is insane. Rose has missed significant basketball since his original ACL tear. Those raw minutes are so important to getting your game back. And that's just the physical side of everything, the mental side will move at it's own pace while still requiring the same raw minutes. We've all seen the post-mask-and-haircut stats but in the last eight games this is how Rose's FG shooting breaks down:
SAC 40% 21 points
UTA 28% 14 points
LAC 58% 20 points
LAL 58% 16 points
MIA 33% 4 points
CLE 23% 12 points
BOS 47% 27 points
GSW 54% 29 points
While there are some dips in there we can also see some peaks. Over this 8-game span Rose is averaging 42.6% and 17.8 pts. For someone trying to get back into form after missing nearly 2 years of basketball I'd say that's pretty commendable. Is Rose back to form? No. But is he on his way? Yes. And as we all know, if the Bulls are going to do anything in the playoffs, especially against Cleveland, Rose is going to have to play a significant part.
Looking at tonight's game and realizing that the Bulls schizophrenia has yet to be cured a win wouldn't be a surprise nor would a blowout lose. The fact is that tonight has me worried. The Nuggets are an athletic team that play hard game-in-and-game-out, and these are the precisely the teams that give the Bulls trouble. I hate to say it, but I see the Bulls getting out to a slow start and giving away yet another game. And in doing so they'll keep that elusive hilltop of consecutive wins as elusive as it has ever been.