[Thanks to Max for today's game preview -yfbb]
Now in 2014, and where these two teams stand, the matchup is simple: Good team vs. Bad team. Bulls should and have to win this game against a spiraling and tanking 76ers outfit.
A feeling of animosity was birthed from that fateful 1st round playoff exit in 2012, with the Philadelphia crowd cheering Rose's injury and, subsequently, Noah's. In my book, 'revenge' was taken care of in the following encounters though the Chicago Bulls shouldn't need excuses to win this game.
These are two teams that in the 2 years since that sad day, have gone through an extreme makeover to the point that perhaps only Joakim Noah can use that remnant anger to galvanize his troops.
Granted, Joakim does have a habit of getting up with an extremely sharp edge for these 76er games.
But the Bulls have had a frustrating habit of playing down to the opponent in recent years - and most recently as Wednesday. Where the Bulls excel in avoiding 2 game losing streaks, they miserably fail in justifying the Mad in Madhouse consistently. Let's see if they can move away from the self-sabotage and progress passed these mental obstacles. We all know they have sufficient obstacles of other sorts in front of them at the moment.
Again, a team has the right to use whichever fuel they can as motivation. Rivalries, make-up games, standings... But at the end of the day - specifically Saturday 22/03/14 - the Bulls should stand at 39 - 31.
The added incentive though here is to follow up strongly from a poor showing in Indiana.
The Bulls can look forward to an established and thoroughly developed team effort, and next year the return of an MVP. The 76ers' only shining lights are Carter-Williams, the hope of Nerlens Noel, and the prayer that in 3 years they just won't be this bad.
This isn't a team the Bulls should fear nor for which they should have to justify their motivation for a win. This is the classic tale of the Bulls starting to prove to themselves (and us) that they don't have to play down to the opponent's level. That they can produce, in a way, when it matters least and yet realize that every NBA game is a statement of their psyche that can be exploited by their very next adversary. Perhaps then will we be able to gauge the Bulls' mental evolution between previous years' incarnations and our beloved tough-as-nails 2014 version - or whether there is still a ways to go in that department, Rose or no Rose.
Kirk Hinrich vs. Michael Carter-Williams
I predict the Captain's erratic rating to stand at a solid 5/10 today, meaning that MCW won't run away with the point guard battle and will be ruffled on occasion by his D.
Dunleavy vs. H. Thompson
...Who's H. Thompson?
Noah vs. The World
Noah has finally been getting recognition for his stellar play thanks to a run of nationally televised games. In front of a home crowd, he will have a more solid start this time around. Look for the trip dub watch to start in the 3rd quarter as both teams start to accept the Bulls (hopefully) inevitable W.
Boozer vs. His Lack of Effort on D
Boozer on paper should win this matchup. He just needs to convince his feet to walk the walk, quite literally, and get between the hoop and his opposite number.
Butler vs. Young
It's games like these that Butler uses to lift his offensive stats and keep them at par. His D will be solid at the very least - as always, but he should successfully take advantage of Tankadelphia's poor interior D.
BONUS JIMMER ROUND: For those playing at home, I predict Jimmer to get a solid 4 - 5 minutes off the bench, which will cause a 10% increase of jersey sales on the day. Great move, GarPaxDorf! Way to earn that paycheck!