[Thanks to MRubio52 for today's game preview. Game thread up at 6:38 -ed.]
The lead-up to this game between the Bulls (13-3, 7-3 on the road) and the Cavs (6-7, 2-2 at home) has been a seemingly endless game of will he or won't he. The "he" in this case is obviously Derrick Rose, and the sprain that looks and sounds like turf toe, but totally isn't turf toe, wait, maybe it is turf toe, has been extremely maddening.
Instead, let's all focus on everyone's favorite punching bag, Carlos Boozer. Lord Boozington put up 31 in 3 quarters of work on a Suns team that couldn't guard an undersized, jump shooting, aging PF that was losing his athleticism (or an older guy that is finding alternative ways to score. It all depends on whether you prefer rainbows or falling skies). It's pretty well documented that Boozer is taking less shots at the rim and is instead opting to hoist up more fade-a-ways than Kobe. For this game Boozer is matched up against Antawn Jamison, and to tell you the truth I wouldn't be surprised if Boozer struggled with this match up.
Whether or not Rose plays, Boozer and the frontcourt need to find a way to get easy buckets against an improving Cleveland squad that is led by the probable ROY in Kyrie Irving. This is a game the Bulls should win, as BAB has collectively said and agreed on, the Bulls will be the most talented team on most nights. Even if it's CJ manning the point, you still have to win this game handily. What I want to see from this team is more offensive cohesion. One of the big take-a-ways I had from the Bulls game against Phoenix game was the fairly slick ball movement the Bulls executed along the perimeter. However, it's one thing to do it against a defensive sieve, it's another to do it consistently.
Speaking of the frontcourt, let's go to the match-ups.
Irving is pretty good. I'm somewhat surprised by his game early in this season. Truncated seasons are funny creatures sometimes, and I think because of the compactness it'll take awhile for the league to adjust to Irving. I expect his numbers to dip as the season goes on, but I'm impressed by him. He's a player. That said, if Rose plays, the Bulls have the clear edge here. If he doesn't, I'm not so sure. CJ has provided some firepower, and I think his defense as a function of the team is good, but I don't know if it's a clear advantage to the Bulls if it is indeed Watson and not Rose. I'll assume Watson starts.
Slight Advantage Bulls
Anthony Parker and Danny Gibson match up with Rip Hamilton (hopefully) and Ronnie Brewer. You can sprinkle in some Kyle Korver in there as well. Parker is bothered with a sore back and Gibson is 2-12 in his last two games. The offense for the Bulls seems to just look better when Rip is out there. Ronnie seems to have found a shot, even if it's cooled off a little bit. Kyle is actually looking better on defense and his shot looks better this year. This is a clear advantage for the Bulls.
Luol Deng is just much better than Omri Casspi. At this point I'm sure there are some Cavs fans getting ready to type up some words of anger and start trolling this site, or complain on their own SB Nation site (link below). I'm sorry guys, the Bulls are just better. Lu should be an All-Star this year. I could go into stats, I could outline how he is the perfect Thibs player, how he positions his feet to deny lane penetration, how he has active hands and is a bitch of a perimeter defender, but that's just piling on. I'm not disparaging Omri, really. Lu is just really good.
Ahh...THE question. Taj and Boozer will probably win the match up with Jamison and friends, but I think this is an opportunity Boozer needs to take advantage of. Booze has to ease the load on Derrick for the Bulls to do anything significant down the line. Yeah, it's cute that he found a jump shot, it's fine that he can still rebound, but the Bulls did not go get Boozer for that reason. If you recall, some in the BAB community were kinda happy that the Bulls missed out on Bosh because he was soft and settled for 15 ft. jumpers and he was super soft on defense. Now, we're supposed to be happy with 15 ft. jumpers and soft D because the shot is falling? I'm not. I like Booze, I want him to do well. I just also want him to get easy consistent buckets that you can set your damn watch by. You know, the guy we thought we were getting from Utah. This can be a draw, but Taj should put the Bulls over the top. Meh, I'll go draw anyway.
Speaking of enigmatic performances from big men, Joakim Noah needs to get his ass in gear. He's an energy guy, so maybe he should start playing like that. We've seen sluggish Jo, and that's no fun. I want the Jo that stole the ball from Pierce and slammed that baby home back. The Cavs are putting his mirror image out there in Verajo, and honestly, Verajo is winning that match up. Verajo is playing significantly better than Noah. Omer will mitigate Verajo's effectiveness, but this is still a plus for the Cavs. Noah is important, as is the chemistry he has with Boozer. This is a big game for him.
The Bulls should still win this game easily. That's a statement about the talent gap between the two teams. What I see happening though is a tight game where the Bulls pull away late. Again. The Bulls need to show more consistency, this season is all about beating the Heat, and you need to make sure you can rely on your pieces when push comes to shove.
Game is at 6:30, on Comcast Sports Plus
Blog with the enemy at Fear the Sword
Hope I can get away from this mandatory function soon enough to see you guys in the game threads.