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Open Thread #7: Bulls at Portland Trail Blazers

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Hopefully the Bulls come out with a purpose (or to put it in non-cliche terms, simply play better) after getting embarrassed two nights ago. The Blazers are one of the youngest teams in the league, but I watched their Friday game against Detroit and they looked pretty good. I'm real interested in seeing Sebastian Telfair, their 2nd year prep-to-pro point guard. The guy can't shoot, but he can penetrate at will.  The Bulls like to tout their perimeter defenders and this will be a good test. Not only will they need to contain Telfair to stop his playmaking, but also to keep the bigs out of foul trouble. Hopefully Chris Duhon's knee is feeling better as he'll have his full with the man they (er...some) call SeaBass.

Other interesting matchups include the 6'8" Russian Sergei Monia against the Bulls smaller guards, Darius Miles against anybody, and the Zach Randolph/Mike Sweetney pie eating contest at halftime.

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Now onto the Bulls, there's a possible lineup change tonight! Luol Deng in at the 3, pushing Nocioni to the 4 and replacing Darius Songaila. Songaila's been in early foul trouble lately and when he's been on the court has been pretty ineffective, so a change is welcome.

Bigger news than Songaila leaving the lineup though is Nocioni staying in, in lieu of another 'natural' 4 like Sweetney or Harrington. If you read John Hollinger, you'd know that the 4 may be the better spot for Noc:

"I suspect the reason[for Nocioni's poor play last season] is that Nocioni needs to play power forward, which was his position in Europe. It's a risk to put a player of his size at that position, but Nocioni is so unrelentingly physical that he probably could hold his own defensively. He also might get called for fewer fouls, as officials tend to look the other way more often in the post. Offensively, a switch might help get his game in gear. He would have a quickness edge on opposing power forwards and have an easier time getting to the basket."

Coach Scott Skiles confirms:

"Noce has more success when he plays [power forward], There aren't a lot of [power forwards] in the league who he can't play against. That's good for us that we have that kind of versatility.

"Our challenge is to find a starting lineup that [will] not necessarily always outplay the other team's starters but get us off to a good start on a consistent basis. So far we've been inconsistent with that."

Lineup change or not, this one should be a win. Leave comments, so we can get through this dark cold night together.

UPDATE: Some quick, unchecked thoughts before I try and sleep off the stink of failure..

-I'm interested in seeing the gameflow for tonight, as it seems whenever Kirk had to leave the game for Pargo the team went south.

-Obviously the constant fouling has to stop. The aforementioned Hinrich and Mike Sweetney (probably the best game of his career tonight) needed to be on the floor more but they kept picking up quick fouls.

-I know I try to downplay the Bulls being 'small' (as it's their effectiveness that matters more than their height), but Portland's duo of Przybilla/Ratliff were swatting shots of their shorter opponents all night.

-On that Ratliff game-winner, the whole defense came over to try and block the layup attempt, leaving him open. Just not being smart.

-I know Gordon had some boneheaded plays down the stretch, but I still would've liked to see him out there in the final posession.

-Nocioni shoots too damned much. That's the theme of my next post....likely tommorow afternoon.