Game Notes: Wizards at Bulls
Look who’s No. 1
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
The Chicago Bulls are the best team in the Eastern Conference…
Of course that could all change over the course of the next 16 games, but word to Ludacris, Chicago’s got that “Number One Spot.”
Playing the lowly Washington Wizards who have virtually no talent whatsoever, and with the Bulls rocking their lucky green St. Patrick’s Day uni’s – while playing shorthanded with both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer out of the lineup – when the final buzzer sounded on their 98-79 victory, Chicago officially became the team that everyone in the East is looking up at in the standings.
With a raucous crowd that included the likes of TV personality Tavis Smiley, HS phenom and McDonald’s All-American, Austin Rivers – son of Doc Rivers – and the greatest soul singer of all time in Aretha Franklin, the Bulls accomplished something that absolutely no one expected them to. But don’t look for anyone on this team to feel any sense of satisfaction as a result.
“I don’t think we’re going to go out and have a party now that we’re No. 1,” said Luol Deng after the game. “We’re hungry and we’re going to keep going. We didn’t even talk about it. It’s not even our goal. Our goal is bigger than that.”
“We have to continue to improve. The idea is to get the highest seed possible and get the best record possible,” said Tom Thibodeau. “If we’re doing the right things each day in terms of our preparation and practice, the results will take care of themselves.”
Going into the stretch run of the season, teams are usually forging an identity for themselves that will carry over into the Playoffs. The identity of this Bulls team is that they’re not trying to win games by merely outscoring their opponents, but by shutting them down defensively. In their last ten contest the Bulls are 9-1 and have held all but one of their opponents under 100 points, with five of those games coming against Playoff teams.
That’s an accomplishment that any team would and should be proud of, and the one thing that’s sure to make this team a problem for whomever they face in the postseason. But they are by no means a finished product.
After having a sizable lead on the Wizards in the 1st quarter, they let up in the 2nd and allowed Washington to get back into the game and were only up 4 points at halftime.
“Tonight, we let them come back,” said Derrick Rose. “We shouldn’t be doing that, but we’ll learn from it and hopefully get better from it.”
In the second half they clamped down and held Washington to just 14 points in the 3rd quarter and 19 in the 4th after giving up 27 points in the 2nd quarter. And despite a triple-double from JeVale McGee and a solid outing from John Wall, the Wizards, who were shorthanded themselves as they only had 8 players in uniform, just got worn down.
What the Bulls are doing right now is undeniably impressive and the buzz around this team just keeps growing and growing. A team expected to finish no better than 4th in the East at the beginning of the year has now made themselves into a legitimate “team to beat” once the Playoffs roll around.
Rest assured, this team won’t be an easy out.