Monday night was jam-packed with headlines between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls. Joel Embiid was 12-0 against the Bulls in his career, and the Sixers were riding a league-best eight-game winning streak. Chicago had just reclaimed the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference and was coming off four wins in their last five, their only loss coming courtesy of a buzzer-beater by De’Aaron Fox for the Sacramento Kings. A clash of two of the hottest teams in the NBA, who are set to meet tomorrow night again, and if it’s anything like last night’s showdown, fireworks are on the horizon.
Derrick Jones Jr.’s Heroics
If someone were tasked with blind guessing who was the ultimate savior in last night’s thriller, they’d take about half a dozen guesses or more before landing on the correct answer. After being subbed in with 26 seconds left in double overtime, Jones Jr. flew in from the weak side to reject James Harden’s potential game-tying layup attempt, leading to a forced shot by Tobias Harris and an eventual rebound for Chicago, ending with game-sealing free throws from Coby White.
Adding a little flair to one of his career highlights, Jones Jr. had some advice for James Harden after the game-sealing swat.
“If you go and lay the ball up against me, nine times out of ten, I’m going to go get it.”Derrick Jones Jr. via Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Owns The Highest Win Streak In The NBA
After taking down the Sixers in Philadelphia, the Chicago Bulls now own the highest winning streak in the league. While it only sits at three, it’s still a first for the club this season. Not to mention, they were also one three-point dagger at the horn away from a six-game winning streak, and four of their last five wins have come against teams currently in the playoff standings.
Their most impressive wins have come on the road, one against the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets and the other against the Eastern Conference runner-up 76ers. Beating the two leading MVP candidates in their home arena is no small feat, especially for a team that sat in 12th place, staring down the barrel of missing out on the playoffs and their first-round selection in the 2023 draft.
The Winning Formula
Truly a sentence no one ever thought they’d read about the 2022-23′ Chicago Bulls; Patrick Beverley may have saved the season. Several players have made significant improvements on both ends of the floor since his arrival, and while that’s not directly tied to his presence, the timing is pretty coincidental. His accountability and fiercely competitive nature lit a fire under the Bulls that Billy Donovan’s staff could not through the 59 games before he was inserted into the lineup. The numbers since he’s played in Chicago are staggering.
Billy Donovan’s adjustments and shifting of the lineup are not getting enough attention either. Since moving Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu to the second unit, they’ve displayed more aggression offensively, more energy defensively, and more desperation to earn their time on the floor. His new veteran-led starting unit ranks among the league’s best five-man lineups.
Chicago will host Philadelphia tomorrow night in hopes of the back-to-back sweep, and then head west where they’ll see the Portland Trail Blazers followed by two teams in a similar desperation mode to make the playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers. The Bulls sit only two games ahead of the Washington Wizards for the last Play-In spot, making each of their last 11 games a must-win and, as DeMar DeRozan put it a few weeks ago, each contest will have a “game seven mentality” to close out the regular season.
With Chicago’s decision to pursue the postseason, retaining a top-four pick is practically impossible following this hot streak. With no other options, it’s time to hop back on the Bulls’ train hoping that some of the March Madness magic rubs off on the Windy City as the playoffs are rapidly approaching.
Jekyl & Hyde team