by Ricardo Carbajal
INDIANA -- Don't look now, but the Chicago Bulls currently log a 12-6 record and are second overall in the Eastern Conference.
It's a 160-degree swing from last season's disappointing run where the Bulls were 7-11 through the first 18 games.
Eighteen games is more than enough sample size to invest in the belief that this ongoing ride with success is no fluke.
And the recent evidence to back that notion is Friday's 109-103 victory over the gutsy New York Knicks at the United Center where hometown hero and former league MVP Derrick Rose made another rousing return in front of a jampacked crowd.
DeMar DeRozan, one of the big off-season acquisitions for this massively re-tooled team, led the onslaught with 31 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. DeRozan was so efficient he made 10 of 20 shots from the field, and was perfect from 3 (2-for-2) and from the charity stripe (9-of-9).
Lonzo Ball continued to proved his worth as the playmaker the Bulls had been looking for when they decided to pry him via trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. Ball was solid with 11 points and 5 assists while helping Chicago hold the Knicks to just 35 of 84 from the field (41.7 percent) and 7-of-27 (25.9 percent) from long distance.
Zach LaVine is certainly not a new face in this resurgent Bulls team. But the high-leaper is doing the same old good things.
LaVine, an impending free agent looking for a massive long-term extension, exploded for 21 points with six rebounds.
So what's the secret for this early success so far?
Spreading the butter.
"We made some 3s because of those guys passing the ball and getting to te middle of the floor and the guys making the next pass," said head coach Billy Donovan.
Balance is also key.
The Bulls are currently 11th on defense with a defensive rating of 106 and 12th on offense with an offensive rating of 109.2.
It's a long race to 82 games but the Bulls and their fan base have plenty of reasons to be happy for. (RC)