The Circus Road Trip is a two-week span each November in which the arrival of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus forces the Bulls and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks to crash on other teams’ couches.
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The tradition has been in place since both winter tenants played at old Chicago Stadium.
Recent news says that the teams will have to take this trip just one final time.
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday evening that the traveling circus will not return to the United Center after this month. They also plan to condense Disney on Ice’s annual run to one week after it passes through the Westside arena this February.
Terry Savarise, the UC’s Senior Vice President of Operations, says the move directly benefits the Bulls and Blackhawks.
“The reason we’re doing this is twofold. One is that in future years the Bulls and Blackhawks no longer have to endure two two-week road trips, and a subset of that is that those trips had resulted in a compression of our home schedules. There were times when you’d have four home games in a one-week period, which fans didn’t like. So the elimination of the two-week circus run and the reduction of the Disney ice show run from two weeks to one allows us to resolve those two issues on behalf of the teams. I think the teams are pleased to have the additional flexibility in the scheduling process.
Watching the Bulls over these next two weeks will be big in two ways. For one, this will be the swan song one of the NBA’s more unique scheduling quirks.
Secondly, considering the matchups on this trip, it will go a long way in determining how high the Bulls are on the NBA ladder.
Chicago already passed the first test with flying colors. The Bulls never trailed on Tuesday in Portland. They managed to jump out to a 10-0 lead after the tip and rolled from there.
The Bulls played strong perimeter defense, a facet they have struggled with most of the year. Chicago held Portland to 26.5 percent on three-pointers. The Blazers came into the game averaging 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.
This is only the second time this year the Bulls have held a team to less than 33 percent. The other time was Nov. 7 against the Orlando Magic, a team that struggles shooting outside anyway.
More importantly, the Bulls kept All-Star Damian Lillard from being a factor. Lillard managed to get 19 points, but did it with an unattractive 7-for-22 shooting line that included just a 1-for-5 mark from deep.
Jerian Grant started in place of Rajon Rondo (left ankle sprain) and did a good job on defense. Grant managed to keep up with the crafty Lillard and force him to the baseline on drives to meet with Robin Lopez or Taj Gibson.
Rebounding, perimeter defense, aggressive scoring in the paint, and consistent outside shooting (they shot 35 percent from three on Tuesday) are all winning keys the Chicago Bulls will need for the remainder of this road stretch.
The Bulls’s 7-4 record includes a 5-2 record against Eastern Conference teams that are currently in the lottery. The first five games of this trip will be their first games against the West. The first four are against playoff-caliber squads (Portland, Utah, the L.A. Lakers and Denver).
A .500 record or better on this trip would bolster their profile as one of the better teams in the league.
The question is if their effort on Tuesday night can be sustained over two weeks. Will teams go back to torching them from three after a one-game reprieve? Can they out-rebound the likes of DeAndre Jordan, Kenneth Faried, and Julius Randle among others?
Will their scoring remain consistent during the continued absence of Doug McDermott and eventual return of Rajon Rondo?
With one in the books, the next five games of the Circus Road Trip will hopefully answer these burning questions.