[Thanks to paddyfairview for today's game preview -yfbb]
The best thing about winning an overtime game is the same as the worst thing about losing one: all that blood and sweat produces nothing more than an L or a W in the end. There's no room for context in the standings; you don't get some sort of tiebreaker for taking a team to a fourth overtime before you wilt and perish. You might as well get blown out if you're going to crap out in minute sixty-eight. But by the same token, if it takes you an extra five minutes and a Godzilla-vs-Tokyo-asswhuppin'-of-epic-proportions from your star SG to get past hideous Philadelphia, you're not docked anything come playoff time.
You are, however, docked for losing a game on the second night of a back-to-back, which is what the Bulls did last time they played the Mavs, on December 26th in Dallas. If you recall, they had just Turned It Around against OKC on Christmas, and came out competitive before losing steam in the second half and breaking under the strain of J.J. Barea's annoying inability to miss open shots. Tonight's matchup is uncannily similar to that game, with the Bulls again coming off a Turn It Around game that snapped a three-game skid. While we hope for a different result, it might be a tall order given the fatigue and injury situation, which includes Rose (Rose), Pau (old) and Jimmy (digesting Tokyo). But hey - smarter fans than you (probably) or I have thrown their hands up trying to figure out which Bulls team we're going to get on any given night, so there's no shame in holding out hope. (No, seriously. I'm not kidding. Yes, I know where I am. Stop laughing.)
The Mavs should be nicely rested after sitting all of their starters on Wednesday after Tuesday's OT loss to the Cavs. They're a pleasant surprise this season, though they still aren't what you'd call a Juggernaut, sitting at 22-18 in the somewhat diminished West and currently posting a net rating of +0.2 (105.1 ORtg against 104.9 DRtg). They've lost their last two (including the white flag game against OKC), and three of their last four, and other than the not-insignificant double-digit victory over Golden State on Dec. 30th, their most impressive win is probably the one against the Bulls. They haven't got an entirely clean bill of health either, as Devin Harris and Zaza Pachulia are both listed as questionable.
Let's take a look at the matchups:
PG: Derrick Rose (maybe) vs. Deron Williams: Hey look, a guy who's been almost as disappointing as D-Rose over the last four seasons! U of I alum Williams turned down Dallas in 2012 to help Mikhail Prokhorov bring a title to Brooklyn, which obviously went swimmingly. I thought the story was his resurgence in Dallas this year, but to be honest the numbers don't back it up: he's posting a 15.1 PER and a 53.4 TS%, scoring 14.2 ppg and dishing out a not-bad 5.7 apg, none of which are remotely close to his late-Utah peak. I won't rub it in too much, since, you know, something about stones and glass houses. Rose's PER is sitting at 10.9 and his TS% at 45.1. When he's been on the court, we've seen flashes of old Derrick with increasing frequency - but until he strings together a few reasonably efficient games without getting hurt, it'll be hard to get too excited. I'm a homer, though, so let's call it a WASH.
SG: Jimmy G. Buckets vs. Wesley Matthews: ...the "G" stands for God damn do we love this guy. Fuck you, haters, I'm glad he called out Hoiberg, that guy hasn't proven shit. I don't think it did anything. I'm just not going to complain about the guy who's given me a completely un-conflicted case of the Bulls-Related Feel-Goods for the first time in forever. 53 points from the "3-and-D" Blindside kid taken with the 30th pick? Eat it, league. Eat it, world. Wesley who? Who cares? EDGE BULLS.
[In all seriousness - Jimmy's fellow Marquette alum has made a ridiculously fast recovery from his Achilles tear. He's not having a spectacular season or anything (11.9 PER) but it's always nice to see a guy come back from a shitty injury like that.]
SF: Nikola Mirotic vs. Chandler Parsons: I once called Miro "The Great Houdini" because of his propensity to disappear during games. Now I wish he'd disappear completely. It's not his fault exactly; it's well documented that he's playing out of position and it isn't working. But there's nowhere else in the rotation for him, and there won't be unless GarPax nuts up and trades one of our bigs. I feel bad for him, but it'll be a limited sympathy as long as he keeps jacking up those ridiculous threes from fucking Hoffman Estates, which is where he might end up once Mike Dunleavy comes back. How did it come to this? Have I mentioned we need a trade? Chandler Parsons is not an All-Star. But he might look like one tonight. EDGE MAVS.
PF: Taaaaaaaj Gibson vs. Dirk Nowitzki: Taj was one of the few Bulls who had it together last night. He had a double-double made up of key early points and clutch rebounds, and just generally looked like he knew the game was happening, which was refreshing. One of the best things the Bulls did during their win streak was make a concerted effort to go to him down low quite a bit early in games, to get him going and to give opponents something else to think about before Rose and Butler got into rhythm. I hope they continue to look for him, particularly when the offense stagnates, because he's been reliable all season. If he's the odd man out come deadline time, we're all going to miss him when he's throwing down thunderous dunks and getting called for over the back four times a game in someone else's uniform. I hope he sticks around. But tonight he's matched up against the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, the living leg-kick himself, so it's EDGE MAVS.
C: Pau Gasol vs. Zaza Pachulia: Hard to say what's going to happen here, since Pau's slated but not guaranteed to return and Zaza's questionable. If Zaza does play, it's worth noting he's having a pretty phenomenal year, averaging a double-double and posting an 18.9 PER. Gasol, who I discover has hilariously earned the nickname "Gulliver" around these parts, is having a pretty good season, too, but...well, all the standard objections apply. I don't know. EDGE BULLS. I'm an optimist.
BENCH: 1) It's so hard to judge what kind of season Joakim Noah is having when he hardly touches the floor for meaningful minutes. Someone (I think it was Jaina) pointed out the other day how Hoiberg tends to respond to opponents' runs by leaning even more toward offensive lineups, which I guess is why he doesn't use Noah as much in crunch time. But even against Philly, you can bet your ass that defense wouldn't have tightened up the same way with Pau on the floor. Maybe that comeback isn't necessary with our normal starters in. But it certainly couldn't have happened without Jo. It's going to be such a waste if he walks in July.
2) On a happier note, with Williams back tonight, we'll be seeing a lot less of J.J. Barea. And of Raymond Felton, who's quicker than he looks. #backhandedcompliments
3) The hilarious JaVale McGee is Dallas' backup center, officially at least, but someone named Salah Mejri apparently had a great game against OKC on Wednesday, and might be taking over that job. He's 7'2", so he has the twin qualifications of being both a) bloody enormous and b) not JaVale McGee.
4) Remember that fan who had two tattoos of Charlie Villanueva? I wonder how the removal process is treating him. EDGE BULLS.
COACH: Even if we set aside Hoiberg's faults for a moment, when you consider the job that Carlisle has done with the spare parts Cuban collected after DeAndre Jordan learned how to be a grown-up in the national spotlight this summer, it's an easy EDGE MAVS.
LENS CRAFTERS DESIGNATED PLAYER THAT NEIL FUNK SHITS ON ALL GAME:
Hmm...JaVale is too easy...I'm gonna guess Deron Williams. Can't you just hear Neil blabbing on about Williams' squandered superstar potential as Rose bangs a PUJIT three off the back of the iron?
PREDICTION: I never do these, because I always find some way to convince myself the Bulls will win. So true to form, I've decided a freshly rested Pau and Derrick are going to terrorize the Mavs not-so-great defense, and we'll get contributions from Dougie McDunk-its and Taj. Final score: Bulls 118, Mavs 113. Goodnight, defense. (Somewhere, Tom Thibodeau sheds a solitary tear.)
That's all, folks. Game's at 7:00 on WGN.
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