Bulls breaking ugly trend from last season, but still work in progress

It wasn’t just the 3-25 record.

That was embarrassing enough for the Bulls to suffer through last season when going head-to-head against teams with a winning percentage of .600 or better.

What cut even deeper was that many of those 25 losses weren’t even close.

That’s why the Bulls were the only playoff team in the Eastern Conference with a negative point differential last April.

Not only an indictment on the effort against the NBA’s elite, but the talent level.

Better believe that was discussed more than a few times in the offseason.

“One of the things we talked about before the season started was, against those top four teams in the East and the West, we didn’t play particularly well,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.

And while executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas banked on bringing back “continuity” by leaving the starting group intact, there was a focus made in the depth department. Depth that has given the Bulls a promising bench and one of the reasons last season’s ugly trend against upper-echelon teams was already changing just 17 games into the regular season.

Facing teams that entered Tuesday currently sporting a .600 winning percentage or better, the Bulls were 3-3. That included being responsible for two of the four losses 13-4 Boston was wearing.

Not the only impressive mark on the current resume, either.

The Bulls also have wins over projected playoff teams like Miami and Toronto.

So it’s not an indictment on talent like it was last season, as much as it’s an indictment on effort with the current 7-10 overall record this roster has posted.

Very fixable in Zach LaVine’s opinion.

“We’re a really good team, but we go through lapses where we play bad,” the two-time All-Star guard said. “We don’t want to dig ourselves into too deep of a hole where you’re just hoping and praying. We’re a good enough team to make it up with the players and talent we have.”

That’s about to be tested once again, as the Bulls start a six-game road trip Wednesday night in Milwaukee, and can start making a statement going into December.

After the Bucks (12-4), it’s Oklahoma City (7-10), Utah (12-7), Phoenix (10-6), Golden State (8-10) and Sacramento (9-6). Four teams currently .600 or better, one defending NBA champion, and a Thunder team that might be down on talent, but fights from tip-off to final horn.

A 12-day trial where Donovan was hoping to find out exactly what he has rounding the quarter mark of the season with.

“I know our record is what it is at this point in time, but I think outside of maybe the Cleveland game [a 32-point blowout loss], some of these teams like Boston, we’ve been very competitive with them,” Donovan said. “Same thing with Toronto, Miami, the first game of the year. I think we’ve been way more competitive in those games than we were a year ago.”

It’s been no secret why.

The Bulls starting five will go into the game with the Bucks a combined minus-220 in plus/minus this season, while the usual reserves of Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr., and Andre Drummond were a combined plus-206.

To put that in perspective, Milwaukee’s starting five will host the Bulls with a combined plus/minus of plus-367.

Head shaking? Absolutely. But like LaVine, DeRozan thinks it’s all very fixable. This road trip would be a good place for that to start.

“I’d rather be going through our struggles now, because games like [the latest Boston win], we realize we can compete with anybody,” DeRozan said. “I really believe once we catch that rhythm, that confidence of playing at a high level, it’s going to be consistent.”

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