[Thanks to 'Sandberg's evil twin' for today's game preview. Unfortunately I think my DirecTV was having issues with the snow, or something (first-world problems, regardless) so my view of Friday night's game was choppy and then unwatchable by the end. But it was an extremely impressive victory and even the concerns regarding Noah and Boozer were gone for a night. Game thread tonight at 7:08 -ed.]
I picked the game tonight to preview two weeks ago selfishly because it was on my birthday, and for once on WGN America! Living out of state I thought it would mean a fun relaxed night of watching a laugher, drinking a cold one and seeing how many times Stacey said "That boy is bad Funk!" vs. "Hard hat lunch pail...Taj always does the dirty work". The latter getting old around December 2010.
Obviously things have changed. Both teams have played 5 games in 6 days, so fatigue should be mostly the same for both. But the Bulls' guard corps now resembles a MASH unit. And Andrea Bargnani, Toronto's leading scorer, is out for probably a week. So, the preview I give may change by game time as D. Rose may well play limited minutes , Hamilton hasn't played since the first Detroit game, and CJ seems out indefinitely. Add to the pressure here of following Paddyfairview's preview yesterday (I loved it but did it have to precede mine? Bad timing on my part)...the Cookie Monster wouldn't answer my calls so you'll have to settle for me.
Defensive minded coach Dwane Casey was hired this year according to the Raptors HQ to take the Dinos from a lottery team "To the next level", whatever the hell that might be to them. At this point it might be 27th out of 30 rather than 28th. Watching several of their games, it seemed to be working until this week. They would lose games late, keeping it close, and give themselves a chance to win, a definite improvement to me overall from the last year. Points allowed ranking went from 26th to 17th. But this week, while still early in the season, they are regressing. Offensively they have been much worse than last year becoming putrid. Overall, well...Canada's sole NBA franchise still sucketh eh.
A few members of the Raps' log speculated that PG Jerryd Bayless might challenge the effective Jose Calderon for PG, and 3 games into their season he was sidelined with an ankle injury, ending any debate or effective backup for now. F Linas Kleiza, went out early last season with a microfracture and only returned to play on Wednesday. I am sure that Casey hopes when in game shape he can help bring up their scoring. He played 10 minutes on Weds, so it might be awhile before he becomes effective. Former Bull James Johnson( can have his moments) and briefly a Bull Rasual Butler have mostly contributed having a low salary to the team.
Why can't I repeat MVP? vs Jose Calderon
Calderon has played solid this year. He'll distribute the ball fairly well, and give you around 12 pts. How much this matchup goes to the Bulls will depend on how many minutes Rose plays. After playing almost 40 minutes against Thibs' former team it's remotely possible tonight he may rest a lot. JL3 would be a step down against Miami Vice's nemesis (Too obscure? yep I'm old)
Ronnie has played well especially lately filling Hamilton's shoes. DeRozan seemed to follow the Raptors...playing fairly well if not flashy until last week when he regressed with the rest of the team. He'll contribute around 12 pts and not embarrass himself defensively. I think Brewer has certainly been better lately. Advantage Bulls. If Hamilton feels frisky and plays, even bigger advantage.
The Sudaneze Breeze vs Rasual Butler
Butler starts but plays 20 min a game on average. Deng may be put on Ed Davis out of pure boredom unless Butler gets on a hot streak with threes. James Johnson ...can have a few good games but unless Deng does guard someone else we won't notice either Raptor is playing. Advantage...Please.
Carlos Boozer vs Ed Davis
This has me a little intrigued. Ed Davis contributes about 10 pts as a backup but will obviously play more minutes with Bargnani out. Boozer typically has his good games offensively against poor teams and players. Davis plays decent defense normally but will be looking to score...so I think Carlos could very well have a good night if he stays out of foul trouble early. Bargnani out might improve their horrendous offensive rebounding but I doubt it. Advantage Bulls, I think.
Jojo vs Amir Johnson
Joakim is coming off his best game this year. While not quite a breakout offensively he was a monster on defense. If he plays close to that , well, all I'll care about really is that it wasn't an anomaly. This game is meaningless compared to getting him going this year. Amir is defensive minded and does a good job. But he isn't going to score that much. Asik will eat Johnson up. Advantage Bulls.
Bench Mob vs Toronto's bench
Normally the Bulls would be light years ahead of the Raptors' backups. With Brewer a starter and CJ out, Chicago is still better just not quite as much. Korver seems to have found his groove and Asik was outplaying Noah until last night. Toronto's own bench was not bad but has lost Bayless and now Ed Davis. Barbosa will give you 10 pts but is being paid 7.6 mill for the privilege. Advantage Bulls.
Thibs vs Dwane Casey
The defensive guru versus the wannabe. Casey may develop a decent defensive team given better talent. As it is he doesn't have the talent to show what he can do with a team this year in my mind. Thibs by a mile.
I think the only real hope Toronto has to win this game is boredom by the Bulls. A letdown is also possible after beating Boston. It sets up in the schedule like a trap game but hopefully playing at home will keep them focused. We could sure use getting a big enough lead to rest Rose and Deng for once!
2010-11 record 3-1 Bulls.
Game Time is 7:00 pm CST. TV: WGN America
Enough talk. Let's get it on!