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The Chicago Bulls quest for consistency continues

Will Gottlieb Avatar
March 31, 2024

Two days after a frustrating loss in Brooklyn, the Chicago Bulls bounced back with one of their best games of the season — a 109-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

Shooting a season-best 58.6 percent from beyond the arc, the Bulls offered enough support for DeMar DeRozan to take them home in the clutch.

With the win, the Bulls advanced to 36-39 with a 1.5 game cushion over the Atlanta Hawks (whom the Bulls host on Monday) for the ninth seed in the East.

• Alex Caruso set a new career-high with seven three-pointers made. Having tied his previous career-high of five three separate times (twice in March), he finally surpassed his marker.

If there was any question whether this was a special shooting night, look no further than the fifth triple of the night.

He accounted for seven of the Bulls’ 17 total three-point makes. The team shot 17 of 29 after going just 9 of 30 against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.

• Anthony Edwards had a pretty miserable performance. Though he had 22 points on 9-of-20 shooting, he was 0-of-5 on threes and tied his season high with six turnovers compared to five assists.

To their credit, the Bulls hassled him at the point of attack to reduce pull-up jumpers and crowded the paint to eliminate driving lanes. With multiple bigs in the Timberwolves’ lineup, there were four bodies in the paint at all times waiting to collapse any time Edwards attempted to attack the rim.

• Another day, another clutch game. The Bulls have now played 41 games in the clutch (defined as games that are within five points in the final five minutes). Now 25-16 in such games, after the Bulls went on an 11-2 run in the final five minutes to secure the win.

The difference between the two teams was that one had DeMar DeRozan and the other did not.

DeRozan continues to be the high tide that carries the boat. His ability to generate a quality shot for himself or a teammate continues to be a trump card in clutch games. Meanwhile, the cramped floor made life too difficult for the Wolves to generate anything of value.

DeRozan finished with 27 points on 11-of-23 shooting. His 36.2 usage rate was the highest of his season.

• After attempting only five shots through three quarters, Coby White finally came alive in the fourth, scoring 8 of his 17 points and nailing his 200th three-pointer of the season as the dagger in the Timberwolves’ coffin.

• DeRozan had an interesting quote following the game.

“We know our capabilities. We know we can beat anybody. So when we lose the games where Twitter goes crazy on us and says we’re the most confusing team, it’s definitely frustrating because that’s not us,” DeRozan said (via KC Johnson). “When we perform like we did (Sunday night), that’s who we are. It’s all about being consistent.”

Clearly, the Bulls are capable of playing well on any given night. They’ve beaten some of the top teams in the West, including the Timberwolves twice now. They’ve beaten every team in the Eastern Conference this season, except the Boston Celtics, at least once.

However, they’ve also suffered some bad losses to teams like the Detroit Pistons, the Washington Wizards, and the Brooklyn Nets—teams they shouldn’t lose to.

For years, Bulls players and coaches have preached some variation of, ‘we’ve shown we can do it, we just need to do it consistently.’

The idea that there is some greater level that this team can reach if they could only be consistent is exactly the problem. That sentiment is what keeps the front office believing in a team that clearly is what it is.

To me, the one quote that perfectly defines this era of Bulls basketball is from Zach LaVine late last season: “We’ve shown we can beat anybody and also we’re able to lose to anybody too.”

There may be some good wins and bad losses. But save for DeRozan’s individual play, inconsistency is the only thing these Chicago Bulls have shown they can do consistently.

Up next: Bulls are back in action on Monday night for a key matchup with the Atlanta Hawks.

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