[Thanks to Kyle33 for today's game preview. -ed]
"We have a tough game tomorrow night...", says Derrick Rose in ESPN postgame interview after a 29, 9, 5 game vs the Lakers. This "every game is important" mind-set of this team and MVP candidate is going to make for a great year and help over the next 14 games.
After the first 21 games of the regular season and a strength of schedule (above .57) which is the most difficult in the entire NBA, the time has come for 14 games in a row against weaker competition. To be more specific, only 2 team (New York and Indiana) actually have winning records. These next 14 games are going to be extremely important for the Bulls ranking in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. Not only does Chicago play teams in Central Division like Indiana and Milwaukee but this is the time to transform into an elite team that does not lose to mediocre or poor teams. This brings us to the game tonight, Bulls vs Timberwolves.
The T-Wolves are one of those teams that should provide a winable game; however, based on the Bulls at times playing down to level of competition (For example, Bulls vs Cleveland on 12/8) and that Kevin Love/Michael Beasley are putting up big numbers this is going to have to be a game the Bulls come ready to play. This also has the potential to be a major trap game. After a big win against the Lakers last night there is a great chance they start the game slow, but based on Rose's postgame quote I have a feellng this Bulls squad knows how important these home games can be during the season.
It has to be said, Kevin Love is a beast. Over his last 5 games he is averaging 27 points and 18.2 rebounds. He is also 13-21 from the 3-point line over that same time frame. Wow. Needless to say, this matchup at the PF position between Love and Boozer is going to be key. Boozer has looked slow at times in guarding quicker players and players that can shoot the 3/drive the ball, such as Jamison on Wednesday night. Booz will also need to pick up the slack in terms of rebounding. Hopefully this is a game where Boozer, who averaged over 11 rebounds last year for the Jazz, will need to prove his worth. I wouldn't be suprised if we saw more of Taj Gibson this game again for defensive reasons.
Darko Milicic is now making a name for himself as a solid NBA player (can't believe I just said that...). Joakim will likely be matched up with Darko for most of the game as he played 37 minutes in a Win vs Detroit last night. Darko had 7 blocks. He may present a slight challenge for Rose as he drives the ball to the hoop but I dont see Darko's awareness being that good to stop Derrick (who can stop D-Rose these days!).
Michael Beasley was traded for 2 second round draft picks and is now averaging 22 points a game. To be honest, this season I have almost been routing for Beasley to do well as it is just another jab at the Miami Heat. Now that Luol Deng is the 3rd option on the Bulls offensively, I am hoping to see a better effort from him defensively. He has done well this season shutting down some solid SFs and this will be another test for him. In my opinion he also played a great game last night when matched up with Kobe Bryant. His legs has shown to really disrupt shots.
Keys to the Game:
1. Control Rebounds - Noah and Boozer need to outrebound Love and keep him off of Offensive Rebounds/put backs.
2. Control Tempo - This should be a game the bulls could pull away in the play with speed and give good effort. The start of games lately the Bulls have came out sluggish, that can't happen tonight!
3. Low Turnovers - In recent games vs weaker competition the Bulls have played to level of competition and had many turnovers. Turnovers may lead to easy points for this T-wolves team.
- How many more games with Bogans start? After last nights game, I have to admit, I am totally disgusted by Bogans. To be blunt, he sucks. 0-3 on 3-pointers, 0 points overall, 1 turnover, and - 16 +/-. And, he got demolished by Kobe on the defensive end of the floor. He is not showing me ANYTHING. I would honestly be happier at this point of Scal started in the SG spot just so Thibs would take Bogans out of the starting lineup. (Ok, sorry, that was my venting session, I needed that).
- Love and Noah are top two rebounders in NBA, which player controls boards tonight?
- Twolves are 1-11 on the road, will Bulls get a blow-out easy game? Speaking of Blow out games, Luol Deng is averaging 39 minutes a game, we need a game to get these guys rest!
- This game will include some Booz and two Brewers... (game is going to be on saturday night, maybe there of some fans of that "pun".)
- Bulls by 16
- Start of 5 game winning streak, and continue goal of 18 game winning streak! (I know i'm getting greedy, but I'm excited about this team).
Enjoy and GO BULLS!
DISCLAIMER: Please Bulls fans, do not BOOO this team if we end up winning with 99 points just because you need a Big Mac. Thats pathetic and this team deserves nothing but praise for the way they are playing this year. Thank you.