[Thanks to arjoseph for today's game preview -ed.]
This should be fun. Golden State play at the second-fastest pace in the Association (behind only the Knickerbockers), scoring 105 points per game. With all the young athletes fielded between the two teams, this one is going to be wild and wily, and certainly "winna-Bull" (yeah, I said it).
GSW enters this game 5-6 with a 2-win streak, standing third in the Pacific. Hollinger's magical formulas project them to win 38 games this year and just miss the playoffs, much like the Bulls (projected to win 40 and just miss the playoffs). In fact, Hollinger's Power Rankings have us sandwiched at 19 and 20 (the Bulls on top), although the Bulls' rating is noticably higher (1.79 higher). All this speaks to the game being competitive.
On the other hand, GSW just beat Portland (despite a 22 pt 10 reb game from Oden), the same team that obliterated us yester Wednesday. (That is, if you believe the game counted.) And they tend to be very good at home, going 81-48 in the Oracle over the past three years.
Last year we split our two games with the Warriors. In the first (a Bulls loss), Baron Davis went off for a career-high 40 pts (and Monta "Don't Call Me Mont-uh" Ellis chipped in 23). In the second (a close Bulls win), Baron was human, Chris Webber was back on the team (and sucked), Biedrins killed us on the boards (compiling 18), and GSW lost despite having three 20-point scorers. Our win was fuelled by Chris Duhon (34 pts, 9 ast) and Joe Smith (27 pts, 8 rebs). Gordon, Hinrich, and Deng didn't play.
Needless to say, things are a bit different now.
GSW has retooled in the wake of the Baron defection and the Monta moped mistake, running their offense through Captain Jack of the Ridiculous Extension. Stephen is also their second-tallest starter (at 6'8") in what is effectively a four-wing lineup, recently featuring undrafted summer-league wonder Anthony Morrow, undrafted 2006-2007 discovery Kelenna Azubuike, foul-drawing savant Corey Maggette, and lone big man Andris "The Rebounder from Riga" Biedrins. Previous starting line-ups have featured C.J. Watson at point instead of Morrow. Key bench players are Ronny "The Predator" Turiaf, who leads the team in blocks and provides them with their only real heft down low, and Brandan Wright (who, if Nellie deigns to put him in the game, is dangerous at both ends of the floor).
We probably won't be seeing any of Al Harrington as he's on his way to the aforementioned Knickerbockers, rumor has it.
Unlike Portland, Golden State doesn't have lots of power in the frontcourt. Turiaf plays sparingly, and Biedrins isn't exactly a monster. This means we shouldn't need to see Gray much, as long as Noah, Gooden, and Tyrus can remember to box out the Latvian ball of energy (who currently leads the league in rebounding, by the by).
Unfortunately, we might "need" to see more of Hughes at SF. If Deng (listed as day-to-day) can't go, we'll be shorthanded at the 3 spot, with only Thabo and Noc. Noc is too slow to guard the athletes GSW will field at the position. As mentioned before, Maggette is adept at drawing fouls and will most likely precipitate some tough roster decisions for Vinny when Thabo gets his third foul sometime in the first half. Who knows, maybe we'll be treated to Cedric Simmons for 25 minutes tonight.
Speaking of fouls, Biedrins has a tendency to foul quite a bit. He's been better this year about early fouls, but if we can force his hand, it might severely impinge on his playing time. Turiaf is no slouch as a back up, though, and I'm surprised he hasn't played more anyway (which I shouldn't be, knowing Nellie's love for small ball).
The keys to this game: (1) Rebounding. If we control the boards, it decreases their opportunities to run and increases our opportunities. Also, it's just generally a good idea not to give the other team second (and third) chances. With a long-distance shooting team like GSW, everyone is going to have to box out and board, as some of those misses will carom outside the paint. (2) Offensive execution. You beat the Warriors by outscoring them. They aren't that oppressive on defense, and they don't really have anyone at the point who can stop Rose. As long as we don't kill ourselves with dumb, rushed, or Larry-Hughes shots, instead attacking the rim and getting to the line, we'll be in this thing.
The Details: 9:30 PM (central) on WGN
Blogging with the Enemy: Golden State of Mind