Following Wednesday night's 90-87 defeat to the Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls are now 1-3 early in the season - something that only a few expected.
However, despite the rocky start, the improvement is there in every game and sooner or later the Bulls should start winning again as they did during pre-season.
What is probably the most important thing for the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau is that the defence is there. They showed that during the game against the New York Knicks, where they allowed only 81 points.
On Wednesday night, the Bulls defence was there for three-and-a-half quarters. In the last six minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pacers exploded and stole a couple of possessions for easy baskets.
In this game, the Bulls relied heavily on the bench, with each starter playing just under 30 minutes (with the exception of Luol Deng, who played 36 minutes), but that bench did not contribute as it should have.
Kirk Hinrich was the only bright spot, with 12 points and five assists off the bench. Other players that got minutes of the bench did not live up to expectations, although Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed did a pretty good job on the defensive end without making a significant impact on offence.
Mike Dunleavy, who was expected at the start of the season to be first option off the bench for the Bulls, is playing very inconsistently lately and he needs to find a way to get back on track. He only scored six points in more than 20 minutes of play.
While Dunleavy is struggling, the Bulls really have a lot of problems at the shooting guard spot as Jimmy Butler plays a non-aggressive form of analysis.
During pre-season, I really praised Butler for improving his offensive game, for finding more shots and also creating for others. But for the second straight game now, Butler put up only six shot attempts - most of them came from the fast break - and he only scored seven points against the Pacers.
He is being extremely passive in the half-court game, and if he does not re-gain his aggressiveness in the offence, the Bulls' struggle might last even longer.
As I said, the only bright light for the Bulls is their defence. Deng did good job on Paul George, who was just 6-for-19 from the field (21 points). The frontcourt players are looking strong on the defensive end, although they did lose the battle of the boards (40-52), which is not common thing for the Bulls.
But lack of offence is the reason for the Bulls' rough start. The scoring of Deng and especially Derrick Rose might not be enough to see them make an impact this season.
Fellow starters, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Butler combined for just 17 points against the Pacers, which is definitely something that they need to work on. As long as they are great on defence, they will be competitive.
However, until they get back on track on offence, they will need to work really hard for each and every win - and even that might not be enough.
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