The Chicago Bulls have gotten off to their (final) Circus Trip on a great note. On Tuesday, Chicago walked into the Rose Garden and stomped the Portland Trail Blazers 113-88. It wasn’t really a close game with Chicago blitzing the Blazers from the start and never looking back. Behind strong play from Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and an absolute dominance on the boards, Chicago was able to knock off a strong Western Conference opponent.
Now Chicago faces another tough test in the Utah Jazz. Utah is going to be looking to get back on track after their two game winning streak got snapped by the Memphis Grizzlies in a 102-96 loss on Monday. The Jazz have been of the bright young teams pegged to take a leap this NBA season. After narrowly missing out on the playoffs last year, many think this is the year the Jazz get back to the postseason. Behind leader Gordon Hayward, Utah has a strong supporting cast that looks like a tough out in any series.
But Chicago has caught a huge break today when it was announced that both starting point guard George Hill and power forward Derrick Favors have been ruled out due to injury. Both players would have certainly given the Bulls problems, especially Hill, who has been playing exceptional ever since he was traded to Utah. With Favors out, expect Taj Gibson to have a much easier time on the boards.
As a part of this preview, we had the opportunity to talk to former Orlando Magic player and Turner NBA analyst Dennis Scott. He will be on the sidelines for tonight’s game in Utah. Along with his analyst work, Mr.Scott hosts a show called 3D TV on NBA TV with a new season premiering on December 3rd. You can follow him on Twitter at @3DTV.
Q: What is your assessment of this Bulls team so far this season?
A: I think the biggest surprise is that they have able to get stops defensively and go out and run and it’s been able to surprise people.
Q: Who is the one player on this Bulls team that has surprised you or disappointed you the most on this Chicago team?
A: It’s the whole team. You brought Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler, and Dwyane Wade together. D-Wade, being the future Hall of Famer that he is, understanding that Jimmy Butler is a little younger and letting him continue to thrive has been huge. I think if they can just find a way to get more productivity from the bench, it could be an interesting year for them.
Q: Your thoughts on Jimmy Butler’s play as of late? Dude has been on a tear lately. How do you think he will matchup against the guards of Utah and Portland?
A: He’s going to matchup well with them. Gordon Hayward is back from his finger injury and is playing pretty good basketball. I know George Hill and Rodney Hood have been out with different injuries and illnesses. I think Jimmy is just really focused and he’s learned a lot from D-Wade already from just being around in training camp and you can see how thats rubbed off on his play.
Q: Who do you think Chicago will struggle to contain offensively in this game against Utah?
A: The biggest thing will be if Utah can take care of the basketball. If Chicago is able to play some good half court defense, get into the passing lanes and get some steals, that will help determine the outcome of the game. If Utah can take care of the basketball, Chicago will have to play good team defense and not just focus on one player.
Q: Who do you think has the advantage on the boards? Chicago or Utah?
A: I would give the upper hand to Utah and its because of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors (who has been ruled out). Both of those guys are shot blockers and they do a pretty good job of staying out of foul trouble this season. It’s going to be interesting how Wade and Butler attack this Utah defense. Will they drive more or settle for jump shots?
Q: Who are your X-Factors in this game/what is your one “must-watch” matchup in this game?
A: The X-Factor will depend on if George Hill or Rodney Hood come back. If they don’t, Shelvin Mack is going to be the X-Factor. But he needs to make some shots to go ahead and loosen up that Chicago defense. The must-watch matchup is going to if Gordon Hayward will guard Wade or Butler. That’s going to be one to keep an eye on.