Time: 8 p.m. Television: NBCSCH
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena
After two losses against the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and Tuesday respectively (the Lakers game did provide this very cool Lopez brother photo), the Chicago Bulls tank rolls on tonight against the struggling Utah Jazz.
Even though the infamous Circus Road trip ended last year, the Bulls still are currently on a four-game West Coast road trip that ends on Friday when the Bulls will inevitably find a way to beat the Golden State Warriors. If you’re feeling nostalgic, Chicago Tribune writer K.C. Johnson takes Bulls fans on a trip down Circus Trip memory lane in his latest article.
The Utah Jazz, after a Cinderella year last season where they earned the fifth seed in the loaded Western Conference and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, haven’t been able to replicate that same magic this season.
Injuries have been a big part of the story. Defensive juggernaut Rudy Gobert continues to miss time with a bone bruise in his right knee, while Dante Exum may miss the entire year after having surgery to stabilize the AC joint in his left shoulder in late October. Joe Johnson, in the midst of a poor year anyway, is also out for the time being. Losing Gordon Hayward this summer via free agency obviously hurts as well especially in the scoring department, as the Jazz’s 100.7 offensive rating (25th in the NBA) is significantly lower than the 107.4 offensive rating (12th in the NBA) they posted last season.
Rodney Hood (selected #23 in a draft where the Bulls had #16 and #19 and wound up with one Doug McDermott) leads the Jazz in scoring, while Donovan Mitchell has quietly posted one of the better rookie campaigns so far this season. He also kind of got his “welcome to the NBA” moment on Monday courtesy of Joel Embiid.
Joel Embiid erases Donovan Mitchell, stares him down, performs flawless troll, gets Mitchell T’d up. pic.twitter.com/HdSsBoBXSv— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) November 21, 2017
Elsewhere, Ricky Rubio continues to be a rock solid point guard (13.2 points and 5.1 assists per game) even though he still can’t shoot (37.8 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point land), Joe Ingles is awesome in a YMCA, weekend warrior type of way.
Presumably, the Bulls will roll with the same Kris Dunn, Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen, and Robin Lopez starting lineup that head coach Fred Hoiberg ran out there against the Lakers last night.
Dunn remains a flawed player, but over the last five games (13.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists) he’s finally begun to show that he can play at a high level and has clearly elevated himself past Jerian Grant in the Bulls point guard pecking order. Valentine’s 11.0 points per game (43.2 percent from 3-point land) has also been encouraging for the Bulls second-year wing.
This game will probably be competitive. However, the Bulls -18.7 net rating in clutch moments (as defined by NBA.com) which ranks 24th in the NBA means they will find a way to lose in the end which is, of course, good for the tanking effort. The Bulls are 1-7 in games this season decided by ten or less points.