A week after contemplating tanking, wondering if the season was over, and debating the alternate options to making the playoffs, a revival in the Windy City has occurred. Last Monday, Patrick Beverley signed with his hometown team, and the relentlessly growing energy in and around the franchise hasn’t slowed since. In the team’s first two games back in action from the All-Star break, Beverley was instantly inserted into the starting lineup, and the Bulls have gone 2-0 with an average margin of victory of 32 points in each. One may wonder, is this lightning in a bottle or something they can sustain for a potential playoff run? Due to a statistic that needs to be seen to be believed, Chicago still holds a very alive and well playoff hope.
In the 36 games in 2022 this season, the Bulls were 16-20 and allowed an average of 115 points per game, including a franchise record 150 by the Minnesota Timberwolves in early December. They only allowed under 100 a measley three times and had several players drop 36 or more points against them, including Devin Booker, Jason Tatum, and Kevin Porter Jr., among the notable ones.
So far, in 2023, things have flipped 180 degrees for that side of the floor. They’re the best defensive team in the new year and now rank sixth in the NBA in defensive rating for the season.
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Many might think this is a direct correlation to Beverley’s signing, but in reality, the Bulls have been the best defensive team for two months now. While Beverley’s impact certainly helps fortify that end of the court, it’s not the 11-year veteran point guard’s addition alone. Caruso and Beverley are arguably the best defensive backcourt duo in the NBA, and it’s keeping Chicago afloat. Since his addition, things have gotten historically stifling on the defensive side.
Patrick Beverley’s opening weekend in Chicago could not have gone any better. In the first of two games, the Bulls were one of two teams this season to lead by 50 at one point and eventually won by 44 against the Brooklyn Nets. The second of the weekend home stint resulted in a 20-point victory against the Wizards and pulled Chicago within .5 games of the playoffs. With 21 games to go and one of the easiest remaining schedules league-wide, postseason aspirations are fully revived.
While the box score will never reflect a team-altering impact, Beverley’s fingerprints can easily be witnessed and traced throughout the entirety of any game he is a part of. Notorious for his vocal leadership and, at times, aggressive accountability approach, the youth on this team has already gushed about the veteran’s instant impact in the locker room.
Staying The Course
The Bulls will have a healthy combination of winnable games and tough tests. In their next five, they’ll see three sub-.500 Eastern Conference foes they must capitalize on. Having blown the most 15+ point leads in the NBA, the truest test will come when holding a lead or having to claw back and overcome a deficit. They led most of the contest in both games this past weekend and never looked back, and adversity has been the hurdle they’ve tripped over all season long.
The other two games in their next five will be against the newly re-vamped Phoenix Suns and the number one-seeded Denver Nuggets. It’ll be a great indicator of things to come if they can compete or even win one of these two. Failing to show energy or life will land Chicago right back to the mediocre state they’ve been in the entire 2022-23′ campaign. Using the league’s top defense in the new year, the Bulls could bully-style their way through these final 21 games of the year. Just how far can Patrick Beverley and his impact take the Chicago Bulls?