Bulls are getting buried by bad luck, but they're not alone

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls' Nikola Vucevic (9) looks to shoot against Boston Celtics' Al Horford (42) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Boston.

    Chicago Bulls' Nikola Vucevic (9) looks to shoot against Boston Celtics' Al Horford (42) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Boston. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/18/2022 5:47 PM

The Bulls have been blown out three times in the last week on national television. So naturally, ESPN added Friday's game at Milwaukee to the schedule.

But don't blame the TV execs if Bulls at Bucks gets out of hand. It's tough to find any NBA team where everything is going well these days.

 

The Bulls lost Patrick Williams early in the season. Beyond that injury, the Bulls haven't had all of their main rotation guys since a Nov. 29 victory over Charlotte. That would include DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, Coby White, Derrick Jones Jr. and Ayo Dosunmu.

Two days later, White entered health and safety protocols, starting an outbreak that struck nearly everyone on the roster, plus head coach Billy Donovan.

Caruso also dealt with a hamstring strain and left foot sprain. He is expected back for Wednesday's home game against Cleveland. Green may also be close to returning from an adductor strain, but Donovan said Monday he's not optimistic for this contest.

LaVine and Ball are basically day-to-day with knee soreness. Neither is expected to miss a significant amount of time, but when exactly they'll return to the court is unclear. Jones is expected to miss at least two weeks with a knee injury.

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Really, though, is the Bulls' bad luck any worse than what the competition has experienced? Here's a quick rundown:

Brooklyn: Three days after beating the Bulls, a teammate fell into Kevin Durant's knee and the Nets' star is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving reiterated Monday that he continues to stand for the unvaccinated, but thinks his teammates will be fine without him. So no change in his no-home game status.

Milwaukee: The Bucks won six in a row in late December, but have gone 2-6 since then while guard Jrue Holiday is sidelined with an ankle injury.

Miami: Center Bam Adebayo returned Monday after missing 23 games with a torn thumb ligament. Jimmy Butler has missed 18 of 44 games, Still, the Heat has gone 14-5 since Dec. 6.

Philadelphia: There's been no resolution to the Ben Simmons holdout and defensive stopper Matisse Thybulle is currently out with a shoulder injury. The good news for the Sixers is Joel Embiid has missed just one game since Nov. 27.

Cleveland: Guard Collin Sexton is out for the year with a knee injury. Otherwise things haven't been too bad for the surprising Cavs, especially since Kevin Love has already played in more games than he did in two of the last three seasons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While playing short-handed, the Bulls did catch some breaks with a relatively soft schedule and opponents that played with fractions of the regular roster. So with that and some clutch shooting by DeRozan, they managed to put together a nine-game winning streak, their longest in a decade.

Now that the schedule has gotten tougher, the Bulls are scrambling just to stay competitive. But despite losing four in a row, they were still in first place in the East -- or at least tied with Miami -- as of Tuesday morning.

Health will obviously be an important factor in the playoffs. This probably goes without saying, but finishing with the No. 1 or 2 seed would likely give the Bulls the best chance of advancing past the first round.

Can the Bulls win the race to good health? Well, even if they don't, maybe they're building up the bench strength with guys like White, Dosunmu, Matt Thomas, Troy Brown Jr. and Malcolm Hill playing heavy minutes lately.

The Bulls are just one game past the midway point of the season, so there's plenty of time for anything to happen.

@McGrawDHSports

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