[Thanks to rainman1003 for today's game preview. Make sure to check out Rufus on Fire. Game is at 7 on CSNChicago. -ed.]
Writer's note: Sorry if this goes on a bit too long. I had a lot of fun writing my first ever game preview, and I'm still in a damn good mood over the win against the Heat. Hope you enjoy reading this!
As the Bulls go up against the Man who created the United Center (and his team the Bobcats), it is a very safe assumption to say that there is a lot of momentum for the Bulls heading into this matchup. The Bulls, missing their entire starting frontcourt in Carlos Boozer (sprained ankle) and Joakim Noah (hand) relied on Derrick Rose’s overwhelming advantage over the Grizzlies’ backcourt and was ably supported by Luol Deng, in grimy-ing out a 96-84 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at the Fed Ex Forum. The Bobcats on the other hand lost a heartbreaker to the Sixers in overtime, 96-92, even though Tyrus Thomas sat out due to being suspended a game.
However, even though the Bulls are coming off a win heading to tonight’s game, the outcome when these two teams matched up was a totally different story.
The 96-91 loss to the Bobcats epitomized a lot of what has been ailing the Bulls during their losses. Let’s break down three key points real quickly:
1) The Slow Start - In losses to the Bobcats, Nets and Sixers, the Bulls have started out of the gates very sluggishly, which ends up with them playing catch-up for the rest of the game as evidenced by losing the first quarter 36-22. Because of the talent on this squad and Rose’s awesomeness, they have been able to generate brilliant 3rd and 4th quarter blitzes that have put inferior competition away for good. But the Bobcats had enough to withstand the run, behind DJ Augustin and Tyrus Thomas. Now that the Bulls know what the Bobcats are capable of (and especially since Charlotte is making a run at the 8th seed with new coach Paul Silas), they can’t afford to start Like A Bogans.
2) Playing down to the level of the competition - As much as I love Derrick Rose as a player and as a human, I believe that he’s guilty of this. Maybe it’s because he’d rather be a facilitator and get the team rolling against patsy opponents, but a slow D-Rose start usually spells trouble. Now if you had a dead-shot like Kyle Korver to facilitate to, that’s a different story. We have Keith Bogans at the starting shooting guard, so… that’s that.
3) Offense goes Sahara - The Bulls are not the Knicks on offense, that’s for sure. The team is decidedly middle-of-the-pack on almost all categories on O. check this out:
16th - Team PPG
20th in Free throws Made
28th in Free Throw Percentage
18th in 3PM
17th in 3PT FG%
Not very good, yes? This can be seen on the court during offensive droughts by Chicago. There are stretches of the game that they can’t buy a shot, shoot straight or dribble around aimlessly. To be a great team, they have to couple their great defense with efficient offense. Not having Noah, their anchor on D and thoroughbred on O, definitely hinders their offensive potential. Not having Boozer available (most likely) will definitely complicate matters. Let’s Taj, CJ Watson and Korver are ready to help Rose and Lu.
With that out of the way, yesterday’s win against Memphis was a great step forward in solving a lot the problems that ail the Bulls in losses against cupcake teams. Let’s hope that this trend can continue tomorrow against the Bobcats. Here’s my three keys to getting a 4th straight win and inching closer and closer to Miami and Boston.
1) Rose destroys DJ Augustin on the court, and makes him his own personal Bogans - DJ Augustin inexplicably scored 22 pts and dished out 12 assists against arguably the MVP of the season so far. This cannot happen, and it most assuredly will. As seen in the wins over Miami and Memphis, D-Rose has begun to show flashes of being able to shut down guards, especially in the ownage of Mike Conley yesterday. With his first career triple double under his belt, I’m looking for Rose to really lay the smackdown early on, and not give the Bobcats any hope of scoring another win against the Bulls. Which leads me to my second key to a W:
2) Start Early, Finish Strong - The Bulls outscored the Grizzlies 26-17 in the first quarter even while missing Boozer, who is a darn good player in the first. We got Lu going early on, and even though Rose didn’t shoot well his presence was felt on the other end of the court. The key to starting well more than scoring is actually being able to control the Bobcats on D early on. We can’t allow a scrub like Kwame Brown to score 10 first quarter points again, or Boris Diaw to act like he gives a damn. Sub in Brewer or Korver at the 11:59 mark, and put these Cats to sleep right away.
3) Mindset of a Champion - I don’t know about you, but I feel it’s time for the Bulls to begin to expect better of themselves. To win a championship, there should be no Bobcats, Kings, Sixers, or Warriors. There should only be opponents standing in the way of glory. Therefore the Bulls need to take these guys seriously, learn from the previous loss and come out and execute their asses off. If Boozer is not available, Taj must stand-up and cover for him like he always has. James Johnson, Scalabrine and even Bogans must be ready to contribute when called upon. Derrick Rose will do his part, and the others must ball like champions themselves.
Fearless forecast: Bulls win in a grimy Eastern Conference Showdown- It won’t be pretty, but I think the Bulls take this one. Not having Boozer available to abuse the donut-shaped frontcourt sucks, but Taj is a warrior. No way does Augustin abuse Rose like he did last game, it’ll definitely be the other way.
Let’s get the 4th straight win, and hope for more Heatles and Magic failures. Let’s go Bulls!