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TODAY

Monday, May 27

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Airbags

Bulls in Five - Up, Down
by Jason Maslanka

Ugh. Here goes...

One: Utterly Mediocre
Let's take a look at recent history... do a little math. In the Bulls' last four games, they're .500. In their last six, .500. Last eight, .500. In their last 24 games, a .500 record. Sadly enough, a .500 record on the season would put them in the playoffs. Also, sadly, the whole season counts, and if this team has any intention of avoiding the draft lottery, they'll need to play over .500 for at least a week or two. Is that too much to ask?

Two: A Brief History of Mediocrity
This past week came with a 1-2 record, including a good win against Milwaukee at home, a team the Bulls are battling with for low-end playoff positions; a tough, close game with Detroit and a real letdown at Philadelphia. The 97-91 win against the Bucks featured a terrific first quarter for Kirk Hinrich leading to a 26 point performance. The Pistons game seemed to be a step in the right direction after humiliating losses earlier in the season. The Bulls found themselves in the game until the very end, keeping the game unexpectedly close against the NBA's best this season. After losing a close one to Detroit, the real letdown was the 76ers game. Ben Gordon and Hinrich were almost no-shows as Chris Duhon led the team in scoring with 17. The Bulls gave up 108 points to the Sixers in the loss, and lost a game in the standings. After whooping the Sixers before the All-Star Break, this was a must-win. Well... they didn't.

Threeeeee: Chandler's Streak Ends
Saturday's loss at Philadelphia marked the end of an impressive streak for Tyson Chandler. Until that eight rebound performance, he had had over 10 rebounds in 13 consecutive games. Limited by foul trouble, Chandler played only 17 minutes in the contest. With eight boards in 17 minutes, it's hopefully safe to say that Chandler won't be reverting back to his early season ways. Minutes=boards, and if Chandler stays out of foul trouble, he'll continue his impressive work on the glass for the rest of the season.

Four: One More Try
This week features four games, only one of which should be a walk in the park. They play Lebron James and the Cavaliers twice in the week. After the pounding the Cavs took at the hands of the Pistons, they just might be ready to do the same to the Bulls... twice. The only chance the Bulls have in those games are that the Cavs are a one man show. Granted that show is James, one of the very best in the league, but the physicality of Andres Nocioni and length of Luol Deng should assist on the defensive end. Those two won't be getting any calls either night, so all 12 of their fouls might just come in to play.

Before the Cavs, they welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves to the United Center. Minnesota continues to play the role of perpetually confusing team, winning and losing with no real pattern or explanation. The only fun of the week may come at the hands of Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry and the Knicks. That's right... you read it correctly... those are the Knicks. The rag-tag gang of misfits and attitude problems welcomes us to Madison Square Garden in a chance for the Bulls to assist in their own lottery pick position. That number one pick the Knicks gave the Bulls in the Curry deal looks better every day. With the second-worst record in the NBA, the Knicks are really the only thing that makes this Bulls fan smile this year.

Five: Material
As an amateur columnist who doesn't attend practices or go to post-game interviews, it gets difficult to write about a team who's become so consistently inconsistent. How many times can I talk about a good win followed by a tough loss? How many times can I bring up the excitement that is the Knicks' first round draft pick? What else can be said about Ben Gordon's scoring or Tyson Chandler's rebounding. To complicate matters, John Paxson did nothing at the NBA trading deadline. While one more commercial about what the Bulls are "poised to" do may push me over the edge, I'm hoping for one little magical run. The schedule isn't easy and the 76ers are playing decent basketball, but they just might have it in them. If not, I'll be analyzing five possible lottery picks per week... soon.

Standings Update: The Bulls at 24-31 are 3.5 games behind Philadelphia at 28-28 for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

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About the Author(s)

Jason Maslanka began his fandom of the Chicago Bulls in June of 1991, conveniently coinciding with the franchise's first championship. The years since the championships tested his fandom, but it never faltered. He believes that the NBA is more than dunks and hip hop, and that the NBA dress code is a good thing. He thinks most fans don't really understand basketball, and if they did, they'd love it even more. He knows that there are certain players who do the little things for no praise, and stat-mongers who don't really do anything to help their team win. Every week, he plans to execute a beautifully crafted column containing five points you should be thinking about and discussing as a Bulls and NBA fan. Send comments, questions, and arguments to bulls@gapersblock.com.

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