Five improbable and historic victories later, the Bulls make a one-game stop at the United Center on Tuesday night looking to win a sixth straight game for the first time in more than three years against the reeling Clippers.
Chicago (23-22) embarked on its trip with a pair of separate four-game winning streaks since Christmas, but a 4-13 road record was keeping it from looking like a solid playoff contender.
There were no signs of change after a 114-97 loss at Golden State on Jan. 18 or a 104-97 defeat against the Clippers (20-27) two nights later, but the Bulls impressively turned the trip around. Chicago reeled off wins in Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City before Luol Deng(notes) scored 26 points - including a putback at the end of regulation - to lead a 108-106 overtime victory in New Orleans on Saturday.
It’s the first time in NBA history a team has won five consecutive games over above-.500 teams on the same road trip.
“When you’re winning, everything is positive,” Deng said. “We’re going into games expecting to win. A game like that, if we had lost four in a row, we might have lost it. But the mentality right now is we can win every game.”
Derrick Rose(notes) had his worst game during the winning streak against the Hornets, scoring 18 points on 7 of 19 shooting one night after finding out he was named an All-Star reserve. Rose, however, averaged 24.6 points on 55.0 percent from the field in the past five games.
Chicago hasn’t won six straight since a seven-game run Nov. 25-Dec. 8, 2006.
The Bulls travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday, and they won’t get an extended homestand until playing their first four games in March at the United Center, where they’ve won eight of 10.
Though they’ve lost seven of nine to the Clippers at home, the Bulls should have a few factors in their favor Tuesday.
Teams that have just completed a road trip of five games or longer are a staggering 14-3 in their first home game, and Chicago’s already done so once - beating Detroit on Dec. 2 after its six-game “circus” trip.
Los Angeles is also struggling and banged up. The Clippers split the first two games of their eight-game trip, but have lost the past four by an average of 15.3 points and have dropped 12 of 13 on the road overall.
The past two have come without center Chris Kaman(notes), who’s nursing a sprained left ankle after a back injury sidelined him for four games earlier this month. After dropping consecutive games to woeful New Jersey and Minnesota, Los Angeles fell behind league-leading Cleveland 46-20 after one quarter Sunday en route to a 114-89 loss.
“Right now, we need a wake-up call,” said guard Baron Davis(notes), who had been shooting 31.2 percent on the trip before scoring 30 points on 12 for 21 in Cleveland. “We haven’t been playing well, even when Chris was in the lineup. … And, it’s a shame when you have the amount of talent that you have in this locker room and we’re not putting forth the effort.”
The Clippers are 0-6 without Kaman, who had 20 points and eight rebounds last month against the Bulls. Davis had 23 points, as did Rose.