[Thanks to sin for today's game preview (sign up!). Latest on Rose is that he participated in shootaround, but is still a game-time decision. Somewhere Sam Smith is concocting theories as to how Rose sitting helps the Bulls gain some kind of psychological edge over the Magic. Technically, I suppose if they don't beat us by 30 this time that's an improvement. Game is at 7 on CSNChicago -ed.]
Big game tonight, everyone. Why wouldn't it be when two of the top teams in the league go head to head? The Magic are in town and we all know how important these games against the top tier of the East game are, but honestly: how many of you saw the Bulls coming into this game as the SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE EAST?? Seriously, that speaks volumes about how good this team has been despite the hits we've taken along the way, and also adds to the growing hype surrounding Derrick Rose. I know there was a debate earlier in the week over whether this game should be viewed as a statement game or not, the one thing I'm sure we can all agree on is that this game could become crucial down the line for playoff seeding. We could really put some distance between ourselves and Orlando in the standings while taking one step closer to catching the damn Celtics. So here's to hoping we go out there and kick some Magic ass.
A game against Orlando brings a lot of fears on its own. Not only do we always tend to struggle against them, I always cringe at the idea of Rose having to drive into Howard and getting smacked hard. However, tonight we enter with a few more things in mind. James Johnson will not be on the bench (there's an open seat there now..I wonder who could fill it well....). Derrick Rose also skipped out on practice earlier in the week due to stomach ulcers, and this coming on the heels of the announcement of his back problems. Not the greatest news in the world but at least it sounds like he'll be playing through it regardless.
Onto the matchups. I almost don't even want to type them up, as I'm already fearing the possibilities of any of these guys going off on us. Matchups are basically the biggest issue for any team against the Magic and it's especially terrible when you're missing your best defender at center to at least try and stop Dwight. The two key matchups I see really controlling whether we can hold our own tonight are the matchups at the shooting guard and power forward positions. Jason Richardson against Keith Bogans. Sigh. I just know I'll be keeping my eyes closed everytime the ball's in J-Rich's hands. The power forward matchup of Brandon Bass against Carlos Boozer should go to Boozer but what I fear for is when Orlando decides to sub in Ryan Anderson, who has been playing pretty well as of late. With a deadly shooter at the 4, I see Boozer having all kinds of trouble staying at home on him and if Anderson gets hot that wouldn't exactly help our cause. The center position is likely going to be a massacre. I love Big Sexy and he's doing a fantastic job for us but let's face it, unless the referees decide to tag Dwight with some quick calls, we are losing that matchup inside. The small forward and point guard matchups should go in our favor but you never know with the way our luck has been this year. We might just be the one team Gilbert decides to have his first 50 point game in years against. [Have we really had bad luck on opponents 'going off' on us? We do have a top-5 defense, no? -ed.]
All in all, whether or not you believe tonight is a statement game of any sort I think we can all agree we need to erase the memory of the blowout from last month. I know it was Boozer's first game back and all that stuff but still, losing by 30 points isn't something we should be doing. Tonight is a chance to show we can hang with the big boys, a chance to show off our defense against a top offense, and a chance to creep closer to the top of the East. Shouldn't be too difficult of a task with the leading candidate for MVP, our first All-Star starter since Jordan, Mr. Derrick Rose.
My prediction: Bulls win in OT
Enemy territory: Orlando Pinstriped Post