[Thanks to rainman1003 for today's game preview, since gametime is at noon we'll just call this the game thread too. -ed.]
With the #1 seed in the East already sewn up, the Bulls look to grab another accolade: an MVP for D-Rose against his number one rival, Dwight Howard. Surely another electrifying performance would seal the deal for Derrick, right? Wait, what? Dwight's suspended? Well, sh--
With D-12 out of the picture as well as possibly Jason Richardson with tendinitis, this nationally televised game isn't going to be as compelling as it should be, and probably would have been if each of the casts were complete. Instead, let's look at 3 objectives the Bulls can tick off against the Magic, before we go to the lineups:
1) WIN with NO INJURIES
A lot of our guys are banged up with nagging injuries. In fact, i don't think there's a player in the NBA at this stretch of the season who isn't at least nursing something sore in their bodies. So while it would be awesome to get to 60 wins, I hope we don't lose anyone due to any freak accidents or unnecessary risks. With that, I'm hoping we can take care of business early to rest our starters, especially Joakim and Lu. In fact, I'd be happy if we can rest Noah. I'd want him fresh to wreak havoc on the East in the playoffs.
2) WIN with no COMPROMISES
The last thing I'd want to see is for Chicago to lose their competitive edge entering the Playoffs. The match against the Celtics was definitely a statement game, but we need to remember that prior to this matchup, there was a noticeable slip-up in our league leading D. I'd love for Rose and Boozer to take advantage of an utter lack of inside presence for the Magic tomorrow on Offense, as well as take care of business on the other side of the floor.
3) WIN to put pressure on San Antonio
If you are of the belief that the Spurs have enough to beat the Lakers to make it to the Finals, then this game might have a bit more meaning for you. Ultimately though, the most we can grab is a coin toss when we meet in the NBA Finals. But that wouldn't be too bad, yeah? The Spurs still have to play the Lakers and Suns, who are still taking every game seriously and relishing the spoiler role at this point. And with Coach Poppovich already resting his starters during the win against the Utah Jazz, a win against the Magic may bring us closer to possibly starting the NBA Finals at home against the Spurs.
Quick rundown of matchups, assuming J-Rich won't be playing. If he is, he wins against Bogans. Whatever.
We haven't gotten a really good luck at Nelson this season against the Bulls, because he always seems to be injured or off his game. But what game he does have will definitely pale in comparison to Mr. Rose. And with no Howard to dish to when breaking down the defense, Rose can play him for the jumper. Although Nelson kinda looks like Rey Mysterio Jr, so he has that going for him.
Ahh, Mr. Hibachi. Mr. Agent Zero. This guy is probably the wild-card who could make this game competitive. If he mans the Shooting Guard position tonight, he will have the freedom to jack up as much shots as he can, which proved to be effective against the Bobcats (25 points on 9-14 shooting, 6-11 3pts). And actually I like Bogans on Gil. I think Bogans will be able to pester him much like he did Ray Allen.
Turkoglu has been hilariously abysmal for the past two games again the Bulls. Deng has made him look lost on the court, and has been content to simply jack up treys on offense, and refrain from using his strong court vision. Eventually he will have a decent game against us, but it's not happening, especially with no Howard in the middle. Deng has been the x-factor for the team, and should be 1st team All-Defensive this year. He will take out the Turk.
Brandon actually had success against the Bulls last time, because so much attention was given to Mr. 2nd place. But since he will be alone in trying to establish an inside presence, he will have a harder time trying to score over Booz and Noah combined. Booz will--
"GRAB THAT!!!! GIMME THAT SHITT!!! JO HELP ME OUT!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! AND ONE!!!!!!!!!!"
What he said!
C: ? vs Joakim Noah
Orl bench vs CHI bench
Q-Rich: Suspended. JJ Redick: Out with injury (strained stomach muscle). That leaves really only Chris Duhon and Ryan Anderson. We have Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, CJ Watson, Kurt Thomas and Kyle Korver to throw at them. This doesn't seem fair.
My prediction: 12 point win, similar to the Cavs game.
I think Rose will be on standby mode, and will be content to let Booz and Noah work out their chemistry on the court, as well as give Deng and the others their time to shine. If for some miraculous reason the Magic are still in this in the fourth, then we will see another MVP performance to close this out. Either way, win # 60 is on the way tomorrow. And THAT is the kind of stat I like.
LET'S GO BULLS!!!
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