The Chicago Bulls have a reputation for starting slow and bouncing back. Coming off their first win in 10 days, they hope their latest early-season struggles are finally over and another resurgence is around the corner.
The Bulls go for their first back-to-back wins of the season when they meet the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night at the United Center.
Chicago has made the playoffs each of the last three seasons despite getting off to a slow start each time. In 2004-05, the Bulls lost their first nine games, but finished with 47 wins - their highest total since they had 62 as Michael Jordan led them to their sixth NBA championship in eight seasons in 1997-98.
In 2005-06, an eight-game losing streak dropped the Bulls seven games under .500 two months into the season. Chicago, though, won 12 of its last 14 games to sneak into the playoffs with a 41-41 record.
The Bulls followed that up with another strong playoff push last season, when they were 3-9 before going 46-24 the rest of the way. This year's team is hoping for a similar revival.
"Four years now we've been in a similar situation," said Chicago forward Luol Deng, a rookie in 2004-05. "We always find a way out of it. You don't want to be in this situation, but you've got to keep playing."
Deng and the Bulls (3-10) may have reason to believe they're emerging from their early funk after beating Atlanta 90-78 on Tuesday in their first game back at the United Center after a 1-5 road trip. The victory snapped a four-game skid dating to a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 17.
The Bulls stopped their losing streak, but shot under 40 percent for the third straight game and the ninth time this season. They rank near the bottom of the NBA in scoring (86.8), field-goal percentage (38.6) and 3-point percentage (29.1).
"I wish I could stand right here and nitpick at a couple things that weren't going well," coach Scott Skiles said. "We've gotten off to some acceptable starts (in games). But across the board, when you're 30th in points per game, 30th in field-goal percentage and 30th in 3-point percentage ... we have to play better offense. Until we do that, it's going to be hard to get wins."
While the Bulls are hoping for another resurgence, Charlotte (6-8) has lost four straight after the best start in franchise history.
They were 6-4 through 10 games, the latest they'd ever been over .500 since they began play in 2004. It was a promising start for the Bobcats, who hoped Jordan's more prominent role with the club would help swing the franchise's fortunes. The former Bulls star bought a portion of the Charlotte franchise in June 2006, and has the final say on all basketball decisions.
Since the hot start, however, Charlotte has faded, losing four straight games, including two against Southeast Division rivals. The Bobcats' 110-90 loss at Miami on Tuesday was their fourth straight on the road.
"I do not know whether our guys had that urgency and that focus to come out and really play the way they needed to play tonight to try to get a win," Bobcats coach Sam Vincent said.
The Bobcats are 3-8 all-time against the Bulls and 1-5 against them at the United Center, where Chicago won both meetings last season. The Bobcats won the teams' other game last season in Charlotte.
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