The Chicago Bulls had a 3-20 record going into last Friday’s game against the (very disappointing) Charlotte Hornets, and they now have a 7-20 record. That’s right, the Bulls have followed up a 3-20 start with a 4-0 record in the games since!
#Bulls this season
First 23: 3-20
Last 4: 4-0
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) December 14, 2017
When has the No. 23 ever worked out for the Bulls anyway?
The Bulls took down the Utah Jazz 103-100 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win. That’s the longest winning streak right now in the Eastern Conference, and behind only the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors for the best winning streak in the NBA.
So, how the heck are the Bulls suddenly winning games? The return of Nikola Mirotic — back from getting his face punched by teammate Bobby Portis — has certainly been a big help. Mirotic returned on Friday night and is averaging 19.5 points per game, including a team-high 29 points against the Jazz.
Not only are the Bulls 4-0 since the return of Nikola Mirotic, he just keeps getting better… his point totals upon returning: 6, 19, 24 and now 29 tonight
They were 3-20 without him
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 14, 2017
Niko is killing the tank!
Kris Dunn — acquired from Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler trade over the offseason — has also been filling up the box score, with an average of 15.5 points, 8.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.5 steals over the winning streak. He’s starting to look the player he was expected to be when the Timberwolves selected him with the fifth overall pick of the 2016 draft.
That’s how you get it DUNN pic.twitter.com/OsD3vDrBhk
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 14, 2017
While Fred Hoiberg’s squad isn’t going to keep playing like this, they should actually quite a bit better on paper soon. Chicago won the last two games without rookie No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen, who has been been highly impressive and probably their best player this season.
And Zach LaVine — the main piece in Chicago’s return of the Jimmy Butler — is expected to make his season debut over the next few weeks after tearing his ACL with the Timberwolves in February. If he can return to pre-injury form, he could immediately become the Bulls’ main scoring threat and at the very least will add some more firepower to their offense. The two-time Slam Dunk Contest champ’s knee certainly appears to be feeling okay.
Zach LaVine looks like he’s going to be healthy for the dunk conteest pic.twitter.com/A82m6GOL0Q
— Athlete Motivation™ (@MotiveAthletes) November 29, 2017
However, during this winning streak, the 6-21 Atlanta Hawks have now moved ahead (or, I guess technically below) of the Bulls for the NBA’s worst record. While winning some games, getting positive development and morale for their young talent is certainly a valuable thing for the Bulls, in reality it’s probably more important they’re in position for the DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, and Michael Porter sweepstakes.
Ideally, the Bulls can both land a top-four pick and play more like how they have lately, but who knows with the way the ping-pong balls bounce and with how many other awful teams are currently in a top-heavy league.
Of course, we know the Bulls’ players don’t care about tanking, and they’ll look to extend their highly unexpected winning streak to five games when they take on the Bucks on Friday night in Milwaukee.
UPDATE: The Bulls indeed made it five wins in a row! They beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks 115-109 on Friday night in Milwaukee, behind a combined a 49 points from Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis (which is certainly funny after their recent events).
That 5 in a row feeling ?? pic.twitter.com/mlXoSQ1EoS
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 16, 2017
UPDATE II: Six in a row for the Bulls! They took down the Philadelphia 76ers 117-115 on Monday night, despite trailing 107-99 with under four minutes left. And that means they’re 6-0 with Niko Mirotic.
These numbers are cool… not as cool as 6-0 though pic.twitter.com/Q268SDqLBr
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) December 19, 2017
UPDATE III: Seven in a row! Heck, they may make the playoffs at this rate.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 21, 2017