Last season, the Bulls lived through a waking nightmare.
With 8:49 left in the third quarter of a home game against the Kings, John Salmons — remember him? — drilled an 11-footer to help the Bulls go up 79-44. For those who enjoy simple math, that represented a 35-point lead with less than 21 minutes to go. Completely and utterly insurmountable, right?
Sadly, it was not.
Sacramento outscored Chicago an astounding 58-19 the rest of the way, including 33-10 in the fourth quarter. No home team had ever lost after building a lead that huge. It was the biggest come-from-ahead loss in Bulls franchise history. It was also the largest come-from-behind win in Kings franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the biggest comeback since Utah overcame a 36-point deficit to beat Denver on November 27, 1996.
It was, without question, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.
On Sunday, anticipating this “rematch” of that epic-level disaster, Derrick Rose said: “It’s a heartbreaker. But you learn from it. If we’re up 30, we’re going to try to push it to 40, 50 points.”
Mission accomplished, Derrick.
Let’s go over the numbers:
They Bulls scored at least 30 points in all four quarters. The 132 points represent Chicago’s highest point total of the season. The 40-point margin of victory represents their second-largest win of the year. The Bulls shot 61.3 percent from the field (49-for-80) and 70.6 percent from three-point range (12-for-17). They earned 31 free throw attempts. They registered 34 assists (to 19 for the Kings). They outscored Sacramento 36-7 on the fast break and 56-22 in the paint. They blocked 10 shots and had 16 steals. They forced 22 turnovers while committing only 10.
Eight Bulls players scored in double figures:
Derrick Rose: 18 on 6-for-11 shooting
Kyle Korver: 18 on 7-for-11 shooting
Luol Deng: 17 on 5-for-9 shooting
Carlos Boozer: 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting
Keith Bogans: 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting
Joakim Noah: 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting
Omer Asik: 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting
C.J. Watson: 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting
Said Kyle Korver: “Sometimes when it rains, it pours, right? I thought we executed really well. We got a lot of good looks. It’s not like we were making a lot of tough shots. We hit a lot of jump shots. Guys passed the ball really well; we had a lot of assists. When you’re doing that, it’s really fun basketball to play.”
Added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “I love the balance. We’re inside-out, keeping the ball moving, making the extra pass.”
There wasn’t much not to love in this one. Unless, of course, you’re a Sacramento fan. In which case, may heaven help you. The Kings are the second-worst team in their conference and may be forced to relocate to Anaheim.
Kind of takes the shine off the apple, doesn’t it? Out-of-control blowout wins against terrible teams don’t really teach anything to or about a team. Especially when that team is playing on the second night of back-to-back games.
I’m more interested to see what the Bulls do in Atlanta tonight. The last time the Bulls visited Philips Arena, they blew a 19-point lead and lost 83-80. It was one of three defeats the Bulls have suffered in their last 19 games. That loss didn’t set well with fans. And it certainly didn’t set well with Rose.
Said Derrick: “You can’t forget that game. I think none of us on the team have [forgotten] that game. You’ve got to remember it. I think that if we get a lead like that down there again, I think that we won’t let them come back the way they did.”
As for the Hawks, they’ve lost six of their last nine games and are fighting to hold onto the fifth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently 4.5 games ahead of the surging Philadelpha 76ers. They’ve got a lot to play for, and they’ll be playing at home, where they’re 21-14 this season.
As for the Bulls, let’s go over the milestones they reached last night. Chicago has won 13 in a row at the United Center, their longest home winning streak since 1997-98. Moreover, the Bulls have the NBA’s second-best home record (31-4) behind San Antonio (32-3). At 50-19, they’ve clinched their first 50-win season since 1997-98.
This is meaningful. Ever since they finished the annual Circus Trip with a plus-.500 record, this season has been full of “first time since 1997-98” moments. That was the last season the Bulls were truly great. The last in which they won an NBA title. The final year of the Michael Jordn era.
These are not small accomplishments. And they’re why the Bulls are tied with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the East. They’re also why the Bulls sit alone at the top of John Hollinger’s Power Rankings.
But this team has higher aspirations than sparking records and top-tier rankings.
Said Boozer: “That’s what we expected. I’m used to being on 50-win teams. We didn’t come here to win 50 games. We came here for much more higher goals. We’re getting better. We’re taking it step by step, but that’s definitely a good step in the right direction.”