Not even a year ago, a Bulls victory was something to be noted, relished and rehashed. Not so this season, as victories like Saturday's 83-75 grind-it-out win against the Bucks have become an expectation for Bulls fans.
For once, Derrick Rose looked merely human as he struggled both shooting (7-19 fg) and passing (4 assists, 3 turnovers). The exciting thing for this team is that they no longer depend on Rose to carry the load every night. Luol Deng continued was has been his best professional season, leading the Bulls with 19 points including 8-8 from the charity stripe, and playing his usual fantastic defense. He is likely in line to make the NBA's All-Defensive Team if he keeps this up. Joakim Noah finally broke the rust off and dominated the glass with 17 rebounds, 9 of them offensive. The Bulls front line out-rebounded the Bucks 49-37, and despite a late run fueled by diminutive Earl Boykins, the outcome was seldom in doubt.
Milwaukee played without Chris Douglas-Roberts and Ersan Ilyasova, resulting in a 38% shooting night. To call it ugly would be kind. The Bradley Center sounded like the United Center North, with Rose being serenaded by MVP chants every time he touched the ball.
It would be nice to see Carlos Boozer snap out of his mini-slump, to say nothing of Keith Bogans' continued and well-documented struggles. But the the return of Noah and the inspired play of Omer Asik has allowed Chicago to keep notching the win column in spite of it. You know your team has come together when someone different steps up every night. The Bulls now have 40 wins, a mark they didn't reach until the second-to-last day of the 2009-10 season. They remain undefeated in the Central Division at 12-0.
Enjoy it, Bulls fans. Your team is more than good. The expectation of victories is a luxury reserved only for the NBA's elite.