The Bulls finished their seventh game of the season last night defeating the Mavericks 118-108. They sit at 3-4 and are 10th in the eastern conference. This team has been all over the place when you look at the first seven games. In their losses, they have lost by an average of 17.5 points. In their wins, they have won by an average of 7 points. So far with this team, it seems like if they are going to lose it will be in a drastic fashion. The Bulls are about to embark on a west coast road trip where they will play four games against some pretty good competition.
The combined records of these teams are 16-10. All four of these teams are within the top 8 of the Western conference so the Bulls will need to be ready to play. There are a few things the Bulls can focus on to ensure they are ready to play this tough four-game stretch.
The backcourt play must be consistent
When the Bulls meet these teams there’s one positional group that will need to play consistently well for this team to succeed. That of course is the Bulls backcourt. They showed they can play exceptionally well last night against the Mavericks.
62 points combined 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/yb5rrY7LEb
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 4, 2021
Not only did the starting backcourt contribute 62 points last night but they added 13 rebounds and 9 assists. They helped in every aspect of the game and they need to continue to do so for the Bulls to succeed. Beyond the starting backcourt, the reserves added 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 assist. On nights when LaVine and White are scoring it’s good to see the reserves come in and make meaningful contributions even if they aren’t huge stats. It will be important for the backcourt to continue its success shooting as well as leading the team on the floor during this four-game stretch.
The Bulls will be without four players during this trip due to a couple of positive COVID tests and tracing. The starting two and reserves will need to step up and take control of games for them to come out on top against tough competition.
Limit the turnovers
One of the big reasons why the Bulls got off to a rocky start this season was because of turnovers. They have averaged 17.7 turnovers per game thus far. It hasn’t bit them in the butt every single game but the games where it did they lost big. This is another area that falls on the backcourt to step up. Zach LaVine and Coby White lead the team in turnovers per game. Combined they account for roughly 8 turnovers per game. They need to work on cleaning that up in order to stay in games and compete. These guys know it. White touched on his turnovers after their loss to Milwaukee.
Coby White after shooting 4-of-13 with four turnovers: "No excuses. Got to play better."
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) January 2, 2021
These two know they need to be better with the ball. However, it’s not only these two that are being careless with the ball, nine total players on the Bulls average at least 1 turnover per game at this point. Simply put that’s unacceptable. The Bulls aren’t good enough yet on the offensive end to be giving up the ball carelessly. If they want to stick with these teams they need to hold onto the ball and make smart passes. Keep an eye out for how many turnovers the Bulls have early in the game. That should be a good indicator of how the game will turn out.
Continue to improve on defense
The biggest concern for every Bulls fan going into the season was the defense. The Bulls were atrocious last season on defense and the fear was they would continue that trend this year. While this team hasn’t looked great as an all-around defense this season they have had some bright spots. For starters Bulls rookie Patrick Williams has looked quite good on the defensive end of the floor. Williams is leading the team in blocks per game. He maintains his position in the paint well and his presence on defense is what makes him so exciting as a prospect.
Patrick Williams' rim protection at the four is a big part of what makes him an exciting prospect pic.twitter.com/3rzQUd63gh
— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) January 4, 2021
The team as a whole is still struggling on the defensive end of the ball. But you can see that progress is being made each game. While we won’t see a complete transformation overnight we still want to see effort and improvement on the defensive end of the floor. The Bulls are still allowing 117 ppg from opponents. They are going to face off with some teams who have prolific scorers. If they want to come out on top they need to focus on the defensive end of the floor.
Leaving the west coast with a winning record
If the Bulls can focus on these key things they absolutely can leave this west coast road trip with a winning record. The final two games of the road trip will be the toughest as they face off against both LA teams. The Bulls will need to grab wins in the first two against Portland and Sacramento to set themselves up for those two LA games. This won’t be an easy task for this young team. As long as head coach Billy Donovan can get the team’s mindset right and keep them focused on playing their best game the Bulls have a fighting chance. Many have already started to count the Bulls out. This team has youth on its side and they need to play with energy and passion. This will be a very important early test for this Bulls team.