Running with the Bulls
Mar. 30 -- On March 30, 1995 at the United Center, the Chicago Bulls easily disposed of the Celtics, 101-82. That was the first of many, many consecutive wins at the arena on Chicago's West Side. That first win set into motion a 44-game home winning streak -- an NBA record -- that would last to the end of the next season when the Bulls lost to Charlotte 98-97 on April 8, 1996.
Now, 10 years to the day, the Bulls organization seems back on track to its winning ways. The club has won four in a row and 15 of its last 19 at the United Center entering Thursday night's contest against Cleveland. By protecting its home turf, Chicago is in position to attain the No. 5 seed in the Eastern conference playoffs and its first appearance in the postseason since the Bulls last dynasty run concluded.
While the current edition of the Bulls has a ways to go to match that singular NBA-record home winning streak those Chicago teams achieved in the mid-'90s, Kirk Hinrich & Co. do match their predecessors in one area – defense.
The resurrected Bulls, who went 119-341 in the seven seasons following the 1998 title, rank first in the NBA in opponents field goal percentage (.421), fourth in opponents three-point percentage (.337), third in rebounding (43.6 rpg) and seventh in points allowed (93.4 ppg).
It's that blue collar style of play that fits perfectly with the character of the city and has put the Bulls on pace to see their first postseason action since the dynasty concluded.
"I feel I'm kind of meant to play in Chicago," said Hinrich, a team catalyst with an old-school approach to the game. "The city is blue-collar. It's how I play. I'm a guy willing to do the little things. I've had to work for everything I've ever gotten. And to play in front of fans like we have who come every night even though we haven't been winning, it motivates you."
Hinrich hasn't earned his reputation in the league as a throwback type of player just because he does things that don't register on the stat sheet, however. He was the only rookie in 2003-04 to record a triple-double, although it was his next game that may have been his best.
Hinrich scored 22 points and added eight rebounds and seven assists as the Bulls posted a 92-81 triumph over LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers on March 1, 2004. He also helped defend James at times, who finished with 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting with three boards and three assists.
Following the game, Hinrich all but refused to address his play, exemplifying his desire to let his play do the talking.
"Kirk must be old school to downplay his performances," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "It is not typical of a young player to downplay anything."
Hinrich can choose to remain silent about his exploits, but one thing is for certain – now in his second season, he's got Chicago fans making plenty of noise about the club's possible return to the playoffs.
And that would be the start of a new steak in itself.