[Thanks to njbullfan09 for today's game preview, another excellent effort. Open thread launches at 9:06 -ed.]
The Story So Far - This game can't come soon enough for both Bulls fans and the team itself. Coming off an ugly 99-91 loss to GSW the Bulls have had the past two days to reflect and hopefully figure out how to regain their "edge" defensively while also getting more creative offensively. The Kings, also 1-1, are coming off a rough game in Portland which they lost 101-79 on Tuesday.
Last Years Meetings - The Bulls beat the Kings in both of their meetings last year. The first was a 96-85 victory in Sacramento without Boozer. This featured a 30-7-7 performance from Rose, and of course "the crossover" (see below) The second was a 132-92 blowout at the United Center where every Bulls starter scored in double figures, including 15 from Bogans!! This game featured Marcus Thornton but no Tyreke.
My Amateur Scouting Report - Aside from watching both Bulls games so far this season, Ive also managed to watch most of the two Kings games as well. Only a small sample thus far, however there was a big difference in the Kings play home and away. Not helping was the fact that the game at Portland was back to back. The "Power Balance Pavilion' (LOL) was rocking on Monday against the Lakers and the Kings seemed to really feed off of it. It is important that the Bulls achieve what they've been preaching in starting strong defensively. Defensively the Kings have looked much better than expected, despite allowing 90 and 101 points. The Portland game was very close until the end. Offensively, they can look a little lost at times and resort to a lot of ISO situations with Tyreke, Thornton and Jimmer. In their two games this year they've only had 16 and 11 assists respectively.
3 Keys To Victory -
Guard The Perimeter. Especially early as the Bulls look to avoid getting behind again. The Kings like to chuck up 3's with Thornton, Fish, and Jimmer off the bench. The Bulls cannot afford to let them get hot early. This will also help keep their loud crowd out of the game.
Get Rose Going Early. Coming off one of his worst games I can remember, Rose needs to get back to being aggressive. That means playing like he did against the Pacers in the playoffs where he was relentless in getting into the paint and drawing fouls. This will allow the Bulls to stay within their game plan and hopefully not have to keep Boozer and Hamilton on the bench for the fourth quarter again.
Battle Of The Boards - The Kings are a very good rebounding team led by Cousins and Chuck Hayes. They're averaging at least 20 boards combined in both games and Cousins had 6 offensive boards against the Lakers. The Bulls are gonna need Boozer and Noah to step up and win this battle.
Matchups To Watch -
Hamilton vs Thornton/Evans. I would assume Hamilton will start off against Thornton as Rose guards Tyreke at the point. Wouldn't be surprised to see them switch off at times though. However, as we saw on Monday, Hamilton struggled with the smaller, quicker Ellis. If Hamilton struggles early, it might be another night filled with Brewer, CJ, and Korver at shooting guard.
Boozer vs Hayes - Hayes is an excellent post defender however he is shorter than Boozer. Hopefully that allows him to get his jumper going as we know Boozer struggles against taller defenders. Hayes has also been in foul trouble in both games and hopefully the Bulls feed Boozer enough to get Hayes on the bench with fouls.
Noah vs Cousins - This should be a fun battle between two big, fiery centers. Cousins has looked good at times but I'm curious to see if Noah can frustrate him enough to get him off his game and make him pick up fouls. Cousins is a bit of a loose cannon and it wouldn't surprise me to see him pick up a technical due to Noah's physical play.
Prediction - I see this being a close game due to the Kings being home. Both teams should be well rested and ready to go so I think it will come down to who starts off better. Im banking on the Bulls regaining their defensive "edge" and really frustrating the Kings who seem to lack an offensive identity so far. Also, I think Rose finally gets back to his old self and takes control of this game early. However, if the Bulls start off slow, it could be another long night fighting out of a hole that they might not pull out of at this loud arena.
Bulls 91 - Kings 87
Game is at 9:00 on CSNC and NBA League Pass is free until Jan 6th
Derrick Rose with the Sick Crossover (via NBA)