The Chicago Bulls have gotten off to slow starts each of the last three seasons and still made the playoffs, so there isn’t a major concern yet. However, for a team that has championship aspirations, they would probably like to get their first win of the 2007-08 season in the books as soon as possible.
The struggling Bulls (0-2) look to get on track Saturday when they visit the stumbling Milwaukee Bucks, who are trying to avoid their worst start in 31 years.
Chicago is considered one of the favorites to contend for the Eastern Conference crown after returning the core group of players that lost to Detroit in the second round of the playoffs last season.
The Bulls haven’t looked too sharp, though, as they lost to Philadelphia 96-85 in Friday’s home opener after falling to New Jersey 112-103 in overtime on Wednesday. Chicago made just 33-of-86 shots against the 76ers and is shooting 39 percent from the floor this season.
“We’re not playing the Chicago Bulls’ way,” said Andres Nocioni, who scored 15 points on Friday. “I don’t know why. We practice really, really well. I think it’s probably with the mind. We need to focus and try to play the way we play every year.”
Though the Bulls have made the playoffs each of the past three seasons, they’ve gotten off to some dismal starts. Last season, they won just three of their first 12 games, and in 2005-06 they won three of their first eight. In 2004-05, Chicago matched the 1967-68 franchise record with nine straight losses before rallying to reach the postseason.
The Bulls try to get their first win against the Bucks, against whom they went 4-0 last season to sweep the season series for the first time since 1997-98.
Ben Gordon scored a career-high 48 points in the Bulls’ 126-121 overtime win at the Bradley Center on March 4, and averaged 30.8 points in four games against Milwaukee last season, his highest against any East opponent.
Gordon led Chicago with 25 points on Friday after scoring a team-high 27 points in the season opener.
Luol Deng had only 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting against the 76ers, but averaged 23.0 on 19-of-31 shooting in two games last season in Milwaukee.
The Bucks (0-2) hope to get things turned around at the Bradley Center, where they’ve won their last four home openers.
Milwaukee lost to Charlotte 102-99 on Friday after dropping Wednesday’s season opener to Orlando 102-83. The Bucks have also opened 0-2 in 2002-03 and in 2000-01, but have not started a season with three straight losses since dropping a franchise record five in a row in 1976-77.
“We are playing really hard this year,” said Michael Redd, who scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half on Friday. “We are trying to take pride in our defense this year. Last year, we really struggled defensively.”
Redd scored 52 points in the loss to the Bulls in March, and his 38.0 points per game against Chicago last season was his highest against any opponent in 2006-07.
Yi Jianlian, the No. 6 pick in the draft, was held to two points and four rebounds and didn’t play in the fourth quarter against the Bobcats because of foul trouble. Yi fouled out in his debut Wednesday after getting nine points and three rebounds in 25 minutes.