The Chicago Bulls have been lauded for their toughness in overcoming obstacles this season. They lost Derrick Rose. They lost Luol Deng. Through it all, they are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They are now facing another challenge-the schedule.
The Bulls enjoyed playing the second easiest schedule in the first half. That will change in the second half. In their remaining 30 games, 16 of them will be against teams that are playoff-bound.
The Bulls are 1 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors (who they play tonight), but are just 2 1/2 games away from the seventh seed. They are also just 4 games away from the eighth seed.
In addition to the Raptors, the Bulls have games against the Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Mavericks to finish out the month. Then they face their toughest month, March.
In March, the Bulls will be hard pressed to keep grasp on their playoff spot. They have home games against the Grizzlies, Heat, Spurs, Rockets, Kings, Thunder, Pacers, and Trail Blazers. In fact, in the period from March 7 to March 17, they play the first six teams I just listed above.
There are reports swirling that the Bulls will not do anything major to their roster until the offseason. It looks, then, that this is the team that will make that run.
The Bulls have been fortunate that up to now they have not had a major injury (except, of course, the one to the most important player on the team). Noah has not had a repeat of his foot problems. Hinrich, of course, will always have his nicks and bruises.
As hard as the Bulls play, will the toll of that hit them again late in the season? We saw what happened last season with the slew of injuries that hit them in the second half and throughout the playoffs.
One thing is sure: whatever happens, Tom Thibodeau will have whoever is in uniform ready to play tough, hard-nosed basketball and not back down to anyone. Let’s hope it continues into the playoffs.