The Chicago Bulls began their annual "circus trip" this past Tuesday, finishing the Texas part of the trek on Friday.
A curious pattern emerged during those games in Texas. In each of the contests, the Bulls were leading at halftime, only to lose their lead in each game during the third quarter.
In total, the Bulls were outscored a combined 91-43 during the third period. That averages out to a little over 30 points for the opposing team, versus a little over 12 for the Bulls.
In two of the games (Houston and Dallas), the Bulls were able to overcome their third-quarter woes to pull out victories. Not so with San Antonio. Although the Bulls fought hard, the deficit was too much for them, playing the second of back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday against a well-rested, red-hot San Antonio team.
Derrick Rose continues his MVP worthy season, thus far, by being aggressive and carrying much of the load while Boozer is out. Rose was 36-for-64 (56 percent) from the field during those three games, including 7-for-12 (58 percent) from downtown.
Kyle Korver also continues his strong performance, with 11-of-22 (50 percent) shooting from the field, including 6-for-11 (55 percent) from 3-point land.
Ronnie Brewer shot over 66 percent from the field and has seen his minutes increase. He continues to get more comfortable out on the floor.
C.J. Watson was instrumental in the Dallas win and seems to be settling down in his role, which is good considering his struggles early on. Before this week, C.J. appeared to be forcing a lot of shots instead of playing his game.
Taj Gibson started off slowly but finished with a bang on Friday against the Mavericks, scoring 17 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, a personal best.
Free throws...free throws...free throws. The Bulls shot an abysmal 40-for-65 (62 percent) from the free-throw line. Come on, guys. This is an area that must be addressed. The importance of making free throws cannot be stressed enough, particularly in close games.
The Bulls cannot allow themselves to continue having third-quarter meltdowns. Too much energy wasted while playing on the road.
Luol Deng and Keith Bogans struggled somewhat this week. Deng shot 16-for-48 (33 percent) and Bogans shot 2-for-10 (20 percent) from the field. They'll need to pick up their play this coming week, but considering their solid play thus far this season, I don't expect that to be an issue.
Although the Bulls are 2-1 to start the "circus trip," they could easily have been 3-0. With four games left on the trip, beginning with the Lakers on Tuesday night, the Bulls will need to continue their aggressiveness on the boards and with drives to the basket.
If the Bulls can improve their free-throw percentage, they should be more than competitive. The Bulls face the Lakers, Suns, Nuggets and Kings this week to wrap up their road trip. All of these games are very winnable for this Bulls team, provided they stick to their game plan.
The refs also need to start giving Rose more respect. Period. Of the top 13 scorers in the NBA (Rose is currently fourth), Rose has the least amount of free-throw attempts per game. It's an atrocity when guys like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin are averaging 9.3 and 9.2 free throws per contest while Rose averages only 5.5 per contest.
Let's hope that the Bulls can continue their solid play, obtain a winning record from the trip and put this annual "circus trip from hell" to rest.