After a record-breaking road trip that saw the Chicago Bulls become the only team ever to win five road games in a row against winning teams, the Bulls have come back to reality and, more importantly, mediocrity.
It seemed as though the five-game winning streak was the Bulls' coming-out party, but after two bad losses, the dip is on the floor, the room smells like stale beer, and the annoying uncle who refuses to leave is still sleeping on the couch.
The Bulls opened up February with losses to two very beatable teams in the Los Angeles Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers, who now have a combined record of 38-59. The two losses pushed the Bulls back below .500 after the five-game winning streak finally pushed the team's head above water.
The Bulls shot 41 percent combined in the two games, which isn't too bad, however, the team was 13-37 from the three-point arc, while committing 36 turnovers in the two losses.
Timing of ineffectiveness is what killed the Bulls.
The Bulls played good defense against the Clippers, but shot 38 percent from the field, whereas, against the 76ers the Bulls played no defense and shot 44 percent from the field.
The common occurrence in both games was that the Bulls could not stop the men down low, which led to big games for opposing guards as well.
Clippers big man Chris Kaman continued to befuddle the Bulls as he scored 21 points on 10-of-20 shooting with 11 rebounds, three of which were offensive. 76ers center Elton Brand dropped 26 points against the Bulls on 12-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, four of which were offensive.
This is understandable.
Not only are these two quality big men, but Joakim Noah is not the healthiest defender at the moment suffering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot. And after Noah, there isn't much defense down low for the Bulls. Brad Miller, or "the Big Sleazy" as he is known amongst my friends, is not going to stop anyone.
Any stoppage of points in the paint by the Bulls is more of a surprise than expected at this point. What killed the team in these two losses, however, was the collapsing on these big men which allowed guards Eric Gordon of the Clippers and Andre Iguodala of the 76ers to run wild.
Gordon scored 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting while Iguodala scored 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting.
It even opened up for the secondary guards in the 76ers game where Willie Green, who averages eight points per game, scored 15.
The Bulls either need to work on Taj Gibson helping Noah down low or, this may be blasphemy, just allow those points to happen until Noah is healthy again. The Bulls can't lose focus on opposing guards just to attempt to double-team a big man down low.
The Bulls will never win that battle.
On the bright side of all this, when it appeared that Derrick Rose was heading back toward humanity with his 16-point showing on 7-of-20 shooting against the Clippers, Rose dropped in 30 points on 10-of-22 shooting against the 76ers.
It seems as though the Bulls can continue to ride Rose's back, however, living and dying by second-year shoulders may not be the smartest thing in a quest toward the fifth seed.
Luol Deng is having spurts that need to turn into a full game's worth of stability. Deng scored 16 points in the first quarter of the Clippers game and finished with 18.
John Salmons scored two points against the Clippers and was 0-for-3 from the three-point arc, but scored 17 points against the 76ers and was 4-for-7 from three-point land.
With Noah only playing around 26 minutes the last two games, the Bulls need to find some consistent play next to Rose. Rose cannot be expected to score 25 points a game, although he has the ability to do so, simply to compete with a team.
Cue dream sequence.
Amar'e Stoudemire would not look too bad in a Bulls uniform, however, the question is whether you would like Stoudemire for this year's playoff push then re-sign him next season, or would you rather take this Bulls to the playoffs and wait for Chris Bosh next season.
Bulls fans, however, should not get too snobby and start picking and choosing between Stoudemire, Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, and so on.
I'm pretty sure all of those players are better than what the Bulls currently have at that position, so to start saying, "I'd rather have Bosh than Wade," is just ridiculous.
There is no right answer to that multiple-choice question. All of the above would do.
Until the Bulls get another star, however, they are going to be extremely inconsistent, especially putting each game's hopes on a second-year player, unless Deng or Salmons figure themselves out.