[Thanks to JockstrapNoah for today's game preview. Game starts at 7 on The U. I'll be at the UC tonight, so expect some completely disposable live-tweets -ed.]
There are four teams in the NBA that the Bulls have yet to beat, the Knicks, the Spurs, the Hawks (haven’t played them) and tonight’s opponent, the Charlotte Bobcats. Are the Bulls aware of this ? Sounds like it:
"We want revenge," he said, an edge to his tone.
"They create matchup problems," Rose said. "But if we play aggressive and with energy, that game should be very easy for us, especially because we've been wanting to play them."
Revenge, confidence bordering on overconfidence, and labeling an opponent easy ? This is new territory for Rose, providing bulletin board material for the opposing team, but as a top 5 team they have a target on their backs regardless and I don’t mind confidence from the MVP candidate.
The Bobcats are 1 ½ games out of the last playoff spot and don’t need an extra reason to get up for this game. They demolished the Lakers last night and are now 15 - 12 since Paul Silas took over for Larry Brown. With Silas they are 4 points better on offense and 2 points better on defense. The Bobcats are a dangerous team that aside from Chicago and LA count Boston among their marquee wins since the coaching change.
The usual suspects are stepping up for the Bobcats, Stephen Jackson is averaging 21 pts on 54% true shooting over the last 15 games and Gerald Wallace has 11 boards in the last six after languishing around 8 rpg for most of the season. Tyrus Thomas was playing well up until tearing the meniscus in his left knee on January 20th (can he recover from a athleticism robbing injury like this?) and is out until the final games of the season.
Recent weeks have seen the emergence of the other Gerald, Gerald Henderson. After riding the pine for Brown last season and experiencing knee soreness early this season, the 6’5" Blue Devil SG 1st round 12th pick of the Bobcats has garnered twice the minutes from Silas (22) as from Brown (11) and has responded by getting 15 pts/40mins and had 18 last night against the Lakers. He’s not a 3 point shooter, which disqualifies him as a potential fit next to Rose but he has potentially everything else, athleticism, scoring and defense.
The Bobcats bring ample athleticism and present another bad matchup for the slow Bulls front court, but for all that DJ Augustin is the player that has killed the Bulls. When drafted in 2008 he was mentioned in the same breath as Rose with some PER loving analysts rating him higher (old yfbb story here) . While Augustin can no longer be placed in the same tier, he remembers who knocked him out of the NCAA tournament and proves it by playing Derrick tough like the 22 and 12 game he had on January 12th.
The cards are stacked against the Bulls tonight, this is the first game back after a long road trip, they had a 2 day lay off to gather some rust, the Bobcats are an athletic tough match-up for a slower but dominant Bulls defense, the Bobcats are playing for the playoffs and the PG Augustine is always keyed on the battle against his draft mate, but in Rose I Trust. If Rose says this is a Revenge Game to win with ease I believe it and I believe he’ll come out aggressive. Bulls by 10.
Rufus on Fire is going to give you the goods on the Bobcats but I object firmly to being associated with Kid Rock, the dude is from Detroit, Mr. Arnott, and I’m sure you know there is some antipathy between that city and our own. Maybe you can put up some R. Kelly or some Chaka Khan clips, I mean, they did go to school at Kenwood Academy same school as Nazr Mohammed and Chaka Khan did play with the band, um, Rufus.