Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
[Thanks again to BULLeiving in Miami for today's game preview. You guys should sign up like he did. And as I have to remember to do on every preview: reminder to use our partners if you want Chicago Bulls Tickets.
AND check out Liberty Ballers, they run a great blog, and: if you pause the How I Met Your Mother credits you can see Michael Levin's name. Not that I did that or anything. -yfbb]
Well, it's about as close to a double-header as you can get in the NBA. After last night's late tip-off and subsequent (competitive) loss at home to the Clippers, the Bulls hop on the red-eye and travel to Philly to take on the Sixers less than 20 hours later. Just to clarify: the oldish, unathletic Bulls travel to play on limited rest against a youngish Sixers team who had a home game Monday and the night off last night. I'm expecting the Bulls high-octane offense to go full tilt.
This'll be the second time these teams play this season with the Bulls having taken the first meeting in Chicago. This will also be the Bulls' first visit to the Wells Fargo Center since being bounced from the playoffs last season. Storylines abound in this one. The Sixers have actually been kind of sliding the last 5 games, having lost 3 of them, squeaking a win out in OT against Boston, and beating the Pistons on Monday night which isn't saying much.
Still without big offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum, the Sixers will roll with the following starting five:
The Bulls will counter with their minutes-leading tandem of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Y'know, this almost adds insult to injury. The Bulls sport an older team than the Sixers and, sure, Holiday cracks that top 5 in MPG, but the rate at which Thibs is playing the starters is truly comical. I wouldn't be surprised to see those two in particular wilt right in front of our eyes tonight, and considering the Sixers' youth, could conceivably be run out of the gym tonight. The one stat that suggests this is the Sixers having the second-best turnover differential in the league and the legs to take advantage of it. Just for a frame of reference, the Clippers are right behind them and we just saw how they can take advantage of what are really unforced errors by the Bulls if they could just manage to learn how to dribble a little better.
There are two players of note for me on this current Sixers team: Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young. Holiday is enjoying his best season as a pro thus far, averaging 18 points and just under 9 assists, both significant jumps from his previous career numbers. This got me to thinking about Derrick Rose and the merits of his MVP season. Slow down, I'm not trying to diminish D-Rose's accomplishment. Holiday having the season he is so far and being the leading scorer on that team had me wondering about the plethora of offensively-gifted PGs in the NBA. With so many gifted PGs in the NBA now, are D-Rose's abilities less impressive? Personally, I think he was deserving of the award. The history of the MVP in the NBA shows it gets awarded to the player with the right combination of narrative and stats. Nobody had a bigger impact for their team that season than Rose. As far as I'm concerned these other PGs, while talented, don't have the impact and ability to affect a game the way Rose does. He has the unique ability to be a game-changer, the type of accolade reserved for the likes of Lebron and Durant.
Thaddeus Young is also a player who has caught my attention for several years now on the Sixers. He's enjoying possibly his best overall season yet and demonstrates a well-rounded offensive game. Recent comparisons to Taj have been made around here and once Taj's extension kicks in they'll be making similar money. While Taj has more impact on the defensive end, Young's offensive game is something I yearn for on the Bulls. Decent handles, decent mid-range (and shooting a very good % this year at 53), good post game, long, finally rebounding well. To be frank, Young is what I would hope Taj ultimately develops into but unfortunately I don't see it happening.
Considering the circumstances surrounding this game with short rest for the Bulls and all, this is a very winnable game. The Sixers do play good D, but the Bulls' offense actually plays well in comparison as the Sixers sport a negative point differential despite their 12-9 record. They also come in with a negative differential in total rebounds, which is obviously a Bulls strength. In a game of two offensively-challenged teams there will be plenty of rebounds to be had. This could prove to be the difference in this game.
I'll go out on a limb and say the Bulls pull this one out on pure adrenaline and the fact that Thibs's Bulls teams tend to bounce back well after a loss. I do hope, though, that he remains cognizant of how many minutes his players have pulled in recent games, especially coming off last night's late finish, losing an hour in timezone change, and a 7:30 start in Philly. Eh, who am I kidding. You all know he'll play Noah and Deng 50 minutes and perhaps it's all part of a grand scheme to disintegrate his players and force management to find new ones. Yeah, that's it.
Enjoy the game. Tip-off at 6:30 from Philly