In a matchup with Indiana, the Chicago Bulls must reassure their fan base this isn’t the same old, same old.
For the last couple of seasons, Chicago Bulls fans have grown far too familiar with embarrassment. It seemed that, on a regular basis, the Bulls would find themselves in a game that got out of hand in a hurry and would never recover.
During the Jim Boylen era, fans heard excuses like, “My job isn’t to win basketball games, it’s to build a culture.” The Boylen era is over and done with, and those painful, sorry excuses are long gone.
Now, it’s on the shoulders of veteran coach Billy Donovan to right the ship. In the Bulls’ first game of the season, Donovan’s crew had an all-too-familiar look to it. The Bulls were trounced by Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, seeing a deficit of 40 at one point. Chicago’s defense allowed 83 points in the first two quarters, and just like that, fans were wondering if anything had really changed.
It was only halftime of Game 1 this season, but the trauma suffered in years past had already reached the surface once more. Fans had a reason to go into the season with excitement and optimism. They didn’t expect a beat down to begin the season. A loss? Sure, that’s acceptable, so long as the effort is there.
Chicago’s defense was non-existent and the Hawks shot lights-out. Now, a day after Christmas, the Bulls have an opportunity to put that game in the rear view and draw fans back in. And, to be fair to the Bulls, fans shouldn’t be “out” after one game. But, the eerie feel to that first game is still unsettling.
Saturday night, Chicago takes on a 1-0 Indiana Pacers team with a couple of big-time tests on the roster. Big man Damontis Sabonis dropped 32 points and 13 boards in the Pacers’ opening night win over the New York Knicks. Meanwhile, guard Victor Oladipo poured in 22.
For a couple of years now, Bulls fans and Pacers fans have had some social media arguments over Oladipo versus Zach LaVine and, quite frankly, I don’t know how this is still a discussion. Saturday night, LaVine can re-assert himself over Oladipo and put that argument to bed for the time being — and the Bulls need LaVine to do so.
LaVine was solid offensively in the first game of the year, but defensively, he was atrocious. Going up against a talented guy like Oladipo, LaVine has to be much, much stronger on that end of the floor. He’ll be good for a nice outing offensively, but this is an inter-divisional matchup against another underrated guard such as himself. This is a game LaVine must dominate his matchup.
Will LaVine and the Bulls bring fans back from an early letdown on Saturday night? A win over Indiana would certainly be a welcome belated Christmas gift, that’s for sure.