Bulls still winning despite losses

By Rhema Rhea

The Bulls are getting into shape following the team’s Luol Deng trade, despite a Monday loss.

The Bulls (17-19) could not get it done at home against the Washington Wizards Monday night. The Wizards snapped the Bulls’ five-game win streak, which was tied for the longest in the NBA. It was Chicago’s fourth game since trading away leading scorer Deng.

In a trade that is just more than a week old, the Bulls sent Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a first-round pick the Cavaliers acquired from the Sacramento Kings, two second-round selections and the right to swap first-round choices in 2015 if the Cavaliers’ pick is between 15 and 30.

The Bulls also received center Andrew Bynum in the deal, but quickly waived him. If they would have kept him any longer Chicago would have had to pay the second half of his $12.3 million contract, and they wanted no part of that.

Deng was having a career year, standing out in three areas: His field goal attempts per game (15.4), free throw attempts per game (5.4) and points per game at (19.0).

The two-time NBA all-star had taken it upon himself to score for this team.

Aside from Monday’s loss, the Eastern Conference team has wasted no time in winning basketball games since Deng was shipped off to Cleveland.

Since the Jan. 6 trade, the Bulls have won three of four games and eight of their last 11. In their most recent 103-97 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago had seven players in double figures and three members of the team had double-doubles.

D.J. Augustin, who signed with the Bulls Dec. 12, finished the game against the Bobcats with 20 points and 12 assists. The point guard has been a nice pickup for Chicago.

Augustin and Kirk Hinrich have formed a fine point guard duo for the Bulls. The two have been on the court at the same time in some situations, with the playmakers creating easy shot opportunities for teammates who struggle to get off their own shot.

During a Saturday win at the United Center, the Bulls reached the 100-point milestone for just the second time since their Dec. 5 win over the Miami Heat.

They did not show this Monday, but not only have the Bulls been putting the ball in the basket during their most recent winning streak; they have also been playing some solid defense.

Chicago allows only 91.6 points per game, which is the second-best in the NBA. The only team that has a better mark than the Bulls in that category is their Central Division rival, the Indiana Pacers, who allow 87.9 points per game.

Before Monday, the Bulls’ defense, anchored by Joakim Noah, had not allowed a 100-point score since Dallas was in town Dec. 28 and had held seven of their last 10 opponents under 90 points.

Noah had another solid game Monday, finishing with eight points and 16 rebounds. Noah has contributed nine straight 10-plus rebounding games.

Chicago was jumped by the Wizards in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and now sits in sixth. They are now two games under .500.

The Bulls have not been over .500 since the last game Derrick Rose played in, a Nov. 22 match against the Portland Trail Blazers. Rose went down in that game with a knee injury, and the Bulls ended up losing 95-98, bringing their record to 6-5.