[Thanks to JustAnotherFan for today's game preview. Gametime is 9 on WGN. -ed.]
It’s hangover night for the Bulls.
After an unexpected loss (not so much because we lost, but because of how we did it) the Bulls try a comeback in Portland against the ever injured Trailblazers.
Portland is a near .500 team right now (27-24) and lost 4 of the last 6. This year we look much better than that but playing in the Rose Garden (despite the name) is always tough: we lost the last 3 there and 10 out of the last 12. But I like our chances, and I also like the plan Doug Thonus put up to get this one.
The Bulls defense must come back to its normal self (2nd in the league in opponent FG%, 2nd in blocks, 3rd in points allowed). We are 2-10 when 100 points are allowed so that’s a no-no. We should be able to outrebound Portland as they rank 24th in the league and we are second.
The key to Portland's success will be moving that Chicago defense. The first way is to up the tempo, attacking before they get set. The Bulls are relatively mediocre against the fast break. Even if Portland doesn't get the break outright, they can still pressure early if they move quickly. Slowing down and holding the ball on one side of the court will probably be the kiss of death against this team....
Looking the individual performances in the last few games you can see how so much better the Bulls team is than the sum of its parts. Almost everyone is playing bellow average and we were still winning.
WHO IS HOT:
Wesley Matthews: averaging 19 ppg in the last 5 and shooting over 50% from 3pt range. Not much of passer tho, with 1.8 apg and the same number of turnovers. Trap him, Bogans.
Luol Deng: Deng is averaging 19.6 ppg in the last five games while grabbing 6.6 rpg and distributing 3.6 apg. He kept his turnover low (1.4 in 39.2 mpg with 1.4 steals to go with). His shooting is at 36% from 3 and 50% FG. Also remeber that Deng put his career record 40 points in that last Blazers game (surpassing previous career high of 38 points against, guess who? Portland).
LaMarcus Aldridge: 21.8 ppg in the last 5 games (including 40 against the mighty Spurs) to go with over 11 rpg. And how about 29.7 points and 63.8 percent shooting in the last three matchups with the Bulls? Like Deng, LaMarcus was not pleased with ASG team:
First of all, I have nothing against Kevin Love, he is a really good player. But I thought All-Star was about making your team better, making your record better. Keeping your team in the right direction.
[ed. note: the hell is he talking about?]
Batum: not much of an offensive threat, but Batum shot 12-18 from 3pt in the last 3 games.
WHO IS NOT:
Derrick Rose: yes the kid is awesome. But he fell behind his scoring average in 4 of the last 5 games. He is also playing below average in FG%, 3PT%, rebounds, steals and blocks. And last game, well, you know what happened. I hope those 9 turnovers are not injury related. On the bright side he is putting more dimes: 10 apg and shot 29-31 from FT line. Last game against portland went like this as well: he only had 16 points but had 13 assists (and 6 turnovers).
Andre Miller: ok, not exactly cold. He is not playing so bad but is having a weak season. With Rose needing a comeback I expect to see him on his butt again.
Carlos Boozer: also not playing bad but scoring slightly under his average in the last 5. I blame it mostly on his inability to get to the line on those games – 9/15 FT in 5 games. He should have trouble with LaMarcus specially in the defensive end.
Kyle Korver: still struggling getting out of the 40 3pt%.
Ronnie Brewer: Ronny is playing almost 23 mpg in the last 5 but only managing 4.6 points per game (Bogans has 5ppg in 17 mpg while Watson put 4ppg in 11 mpg in the same period).
WHO IS OUT
Joakim Noah, Marcus Camby, Greg Oden and Brandon Roy.
OTHER THINGS TO WATCH:
The new Bogans era: with the prophecy broken I thought there would be no reason for him to remain on the floor. But with Brewer struggling even more on offense and Kyle defensive blackouts, Bogans has a case (oh my, I'm gonna get killed)
Rudy Fernandez: Rudy lovers will have a chance to see him in action and imagine him in Bulls uniform. He didn’t play well last time in Chicago but is doing his job lately and scored 19 and 17 in the last two games.