It's being a bit overshadowed by the latest round of Derrick Rose hysteria, but there is an actual basketball game to be played at the United Center on Friday night. K.C. Johnson sadly cold bucketed us shortly after the Rose story broke, tweeting that Kirk Hinrch (foot), Richard Hamilton (back) and Taj Gibson (knee) were all out again for Friday night's game against the Jazz.
The Jazz appear intent on allowing the Lakers back in to the Western Conference playoff picture, as they have lost two in a row and five of six. The only win was a beat down of the Bobcats, which isn't much of an accomplishment these days. The Jazz are currently just 1.5 games ahead of the Lakers for the eighth seed in the West.
Much like the Bulls, injuries have been a problem for the Jazz of late. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap have both been battling ankle injuries, although Millsap is back and Jefferson is currently a game-time decision. Big Al did go through shootaround, so I would think he plays. I certainly wouldn't be upset if he didn't though, considering he dropped 32 points against the Bulls earlier this year. However, it should be noted that youngster Enes Kanter has played really well in Jefferson's absence, averaging 19.3 points and 13.0 rebounds in the last three games.
Point guard Mo Williams did just return to the Jazz lineup from a thumb injury, which kept him out for the past couple of months. Williams naturally struggled in his return, scoring 8 points on 3-of-12 shooting and turning the ball over four times in a 104-101 loss to the Cavs. But despite that poor outing, Williams is still one hell of an upgrade over Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson. Those guys suck.
The Bulls did beat the Jazz in the one earlier meeting this year, grabbing a somewhat surprising 93-89 road win exactly one month ago. The Bulls' offense was brilliant in the first half of that game, but fell apart in the second half before the pick-and-roll game of Marco Belinelli and Carlos Boozer saved the day. With Hinrich out again and Belinelli receiving more ballhandling duties of late, it's safe to assume we'll see plenty more of that.
Considering the Jazz's recent struggles, poor road record (10-21) and the fact that the Bulls are coming off two straight losses, I'm expecting a victory for the home team tonight, despite the injuries. Although now that I have said that, I'll probably be wrong.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. CT and is on CSN Chicago. For more on the Jazz, check out the great work done over at SLC Dunk.