Happy Holidays, BaB. The world didn't end on Friday, but I may not be out of the woods yet. Quick story:
Last Christmas, I fell in a lake. I was a ways off shore and I jumped over a crack (yep…brilliant) and the whole ice sheet gave way. Obviously I made it out. After my relatives had a good laugh at my near-death experience, I sat down and watched DRose beat the Lakers on a ridiculous floater over about 27 feet of Pau Gasol. I didn't see the problem until I was sitting in a bar in Austin, TX a couple of weeks ago, watching North Korea launch a nuclear rocket. (The name of the bar? Sputnik. Of course.) Then it hit me: I beat the lake, Derrick beat the Lakers. This year - no Derrick. What if we lose to the Rockets? I've been frantically digging a bomb shelter all week.
After all, this isn't a Rockets team to be taken lightly. Don't let the 14-12 record fool you - they've been improving the same way the Bulls have throughout December. They're 7-4 on the month, coming off three quality wins (against New York, Philly and Memphis) in which they averaged 118 points, with Harden averaging 30.6. Asik had a lousy game in New York, but in the last two he's averaged 15.5 points and 13.5 rebounds. Even Lin hasn't been bad during that stretch, averaging 18.3 point 8.3 assists on over 50% shooting (though he's only shot 3-14 from downtown). Were it not for the Abomination in Atlanta, the Bulls might have some similar streak stats to analyze; we can at least take comfort in the fact that under Thibs they've been a good bounce-back team.
As you may remember, the Rockets beat the Bulls in their last meeting, 93-89. That's the sort of score we're familiar with as Bulls fans, but it's uncharacteristic for the Rockets. Their efficiency ratings - 103.2 on offense and 103.5 on defense - are about right for a roughly .500 ball club, and it's not surprising either that a) the Bulls held the Rockets to 93 points or b) the Bulls made the Rockets' slightly-below-league-average defense look great. This, of course, was before Thibs unleashed the man known as Marco Belinelli, who (as JayPatt mentioned yesterday) is averaging 15.4 points and shooting 40.9% from three as a starter.
The emergence of Marco (and the slight but general improvement of Hinrich's play over the course of the season) did not stop TrueHoop's bloggers yesterday from saying that watching the Bulls' offense is "like watching the factory floor at a cannery". You should be terrified, for a variety of reasons, that our leading scorer is Luol Deng (at 17 ppg). It's also rather disgusting that our two leading distributors are tied at 4.0 apg. Still, before the Abomination in Atlanta the Bulls had managed to put together two consecutive 100-point efforts, the first time they've done that since a four-game stretch in mid-November in which they lost three of the four.
But enough with the BS. Let's remember, Charlie Brown-style, what tonight is really all about:
Asik-n-Destroy, Turkish Delight, Turkish God of the Thunder, Chef from Ratatoullie (copyright KC), Judge Reinhold, call him what you will. We've seen him once this year, but there's just something appropriate about Omer and his former mentor Jo going at it on the UC floor on national TV. As much as I loved the guy, and as shitty as it was to lose him to Daryl Morey's wranglings, I'm Happy Omer's getting a chance to start and making the most of it. He's a great player, and though I expect Jo to clearly defeat him in the head-to-head, it will be a hell of a fight for us to watch.
That's all I've got, time to go see Django Unchained so I can get back for tip-off. Game's at 7.