Chicago Bulls things to know as the playoff race begins

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

With the All-Star break in the rearview mirror, the mayhem that comes with the second half of the NBA season is upon us. In recent years, Chicago Bulls fans have only been able to count down the days until the Bulls were statistically eliminated from playoff contention.

This year, however, the Bulls are in the thick of the madness. Here is everything you need to know about the Bulls as their first playoff berth since 2017 looms. First, the current Eastern Conference standings: 

  1. Miami Heat (38-21)
  2. Chicago Bulls (38-21)
  3. Philadelphia 76ers (35-23)
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-23)
  5. Milwaukee Bucks (36-24)
  6. Boston Celtics (34-26)
  7. Toronto Raptors (32-25)
  8. Brooklyn Nets (31-28)
  9. Charlotte Hornets (29-31)
  10. Atlanta Hawks (28-30)
  11. Washington Wizards (27-31)

The Bulls are in a great position as they are tied for first in the conference with the Miami Heat. A little more disparity among the top teams would be nice though. The Bulls sit a mere five games ahead of the seventh-place Raptors and the Play-In Tournament.

Even more concerningly, the Bulls only won six of 16 games (0.375) against the other top-8 teams in the East. That is a group that Chicago will face 10 more times in their remaining 23 games.

The first six of these remaining 23 games will come against teams that made the playoffs last year and 14 of these games come against teams that currently have a record above .500.

The Chicago Bulls were one of the hottest teams going into the All-Star break

The Bulls had won five games in a row before the break which is the longest current streak in the conference. The Bulls won seven of their previous 10 games before the break, the third-highest mark in the East only behind Boston (9) and Toronto (8).

Forward Patrick Williams (wrist) and guards Lonzo Ball (knee) and Alex Caruso (wrist) have all missed significant time due to injury.

Barring setbacks, Ball’s original 6-to-8-week recovery timeline should place his return within the next 2-to-4 weeks, allowing him a solid 12 to 18 games to shake off any rust before the playoffs. Caruso seems to be ramping up for a mid-March return as well.

Patrick Williams has been out since the fourth game of the season and he has no timetable for a return to action. There are some within the Bulls organization, however, who believe that Williams can and will return before the playoffs. That will remain to be seen.

The recent addition of Tristan Thompson should offer some rebounding help for the guard-heavy Bulls roster, especially on the offensive end.

With the playoffs on the horizon and still being far from full strength, the Bulls will take all the help they can get.

Some of the Bulls’ recent success has come from elevated performances from players who are already on the roster.

Nikola Vucevic has ramped up his production of late. He has grabbed nine double-doubles in his last 11 games. In that span, Vuc has improved from his season-long averages of 18.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game on 47.4 percent shooting to an admirable 24.1 points and 13.3 rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting.

DeMar DeRozan is on a historical run, becoming the first player in NBA history to score 35+ points on 50 percent shooting or better in seven consecutive games. He beat Wilt Chamberlain’s record of six games.

Even the consistently inconsistent Coby White has improved of late, averaging 20.2 points per game while making 54.2 percent of his three-pointers in his last six games. These numbers are a welcome improvement from his season-long averages of 14.0 points and 40.1 percent three-point shooting.

The Bulls will look to keep their momentum as they enter a very difficult stretch of the season. Their schedule will not be kind to them as they are in Miami on Feb. 28th. It will be their first of 12 road games within a stretch of 15 contests.

The competition will be fierce as the Bulls will only play two of their remaining 23 games against teams that are not vying for a playoff berth or playoff positioning.

Hopefully, Tristan Thompson can make a difference for the Bulls and the roster can get healthy with enough time before the playoffs.

Nevertheless, the Bulls should be a lock to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and that in itself is very exciting for us Chicago fans. Can these Bulls contend for a championship? Maybe. Let’s take it one step at a time.

Next. All-Star game not a testament of LaVine and DeRozan's abilities. dark