Culture of Hoops

The Chicago Bulls Are in a Groove

The Chicago Bulls have had the components to be on top, but recently they have gotten into a groove that’s making them a scary opponent. They’re currently on a six-game winning streak that they’ve pulled off with the usual suspects: hard work and determination. Their talent, work ethic, and swagger are at their highest this season, as the team looks to add to the legacy of the Bulls.

They’re truly hard workers that work hard, plain and simple, as three Bulls almost finished with double-digit rebounds in their recent game against the the New Orleans Pelicans. Since their loss to the Denver Nuggets on November 25, the Bulls have played 15 games and out-rebounded the opposition 14 times, cleaning the glass with hustle. Not to mention, this led them to win nine out of their last 10 games.

Defense has always been Tom Thibodeau’s bread and butter, and the Bulls defense at this moment is working perfectly as one. If one player gets beat, the machine doesn’t break down, it makes an adjustment. Watching the Bulls, their defense shifts and adapts to the offense, working as a single unit to get stops and clog the lane. It also helps to have two giants in the frontcourt in Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, changing shots and grabbing boards. Gasol’s grabbing 11.4 rebounds per game so far this season, which is the most he’s averaged in his entire career. His resurgence was expected, as he’s now on a team that has a shot at something other then the eighth seed.

“Every aspect of our defense is five guys being tied together,” Thibodeau told CSN Chicago. “Whether it’s defensive transition, low-post defense, pick-and-roll defense, isolation defense, catch-and-shoot. It doesn’t matter, and if one guy’s not doing their job it’s going to show. We’re not going to give up an easy shot. That requires a lot of work and commitment.”

The bench has also been particularly amazing lately. Taj Gibson, Aaron Brooks, and Nikola Mirotic have all been putting in work and taking down opposing reserve groups. Thibodeau seems to have more trust in them now because they can get it going as a unit. Thank goodness they didn’t trade away Jimmy Butler or Taj Gibson for Carmelo Anthony!

Speaking of Butler, he’s really kicked his game up a notch or two (or three) this season. He’s always been a defensive specialist, but his offense has really rounded out his game. Butler is putting up All-Star numbers: 22 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. The man is definitely not a sidekick to Derrick Rose, he’s working his way up to be a pivotal player. Rose now has the second star to work off of who can be a go-to guy on offense.

And then there’s Rose. He’s healthy, and is getting better each game, which is saying lot considering the past two seasons. Rose is definitely not at 100 percent yet, but he’s steadily getting there. He’s changed his game a bit, relying more on mid-range jumpers and  floaters rather than gunning it for a monster slam. However, don’t get me wrong, he’s still lightning quick with a mean crossover that freezes players as he blasts to the rim to lay it in. Rose is learning to control his game, and when his progress bar finally fills up, he’ll be a more effective player. A big key to this team’s success is the relationship between Rose and Butler, and right now it seems that they’re clicking well.

The Bulls are playing fantastic basketball, no doubt, but keeping it up will be the hard part. Their swagger is in full effect, and it seems to be the type that championship teams are made of. All eyes are on the Larry O’Brien trophy, and the only way to win it is one step at a time.

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