After a bunch of games at home plus some days off in between outings returning to a road trip with games left and right feels like old home week around here. Time to put the hard hats and work gloves back on. Hopefully we'll be able to crank out a few more wins.
A Look at the Bulls
The Bulls are the proud owners of a 16-21 record, which is kind of like saying you're the proud owner of a '99 Ford Escort. It gets you where you're going but this is not exactly a babe magnet. Their calling cards are a stellar backcourt and...well...a stellar backcourt. Derrick Rose is playing quite well, averaging 17 points on 47% shooting and adding 6 assists per game. It turns out it's a good thing the Bulls kept Ben Gordon too, as he leads the team in scoring with 21 points on 45% shooting from the field and 42% from the three-point arc with 4 assists and 3 rebounds per game as well. With Kirk Hinrich being injured all season, Gordon has saved the Bulls from the deep lottery. (Perhaps a mixed blessing?) Larry Hughes has proved a decent third guard, if not quite living up to the good form he had for a brief moment earlier in his career. He's had a couple of really nice games in a row, perhaps working out frustration over a lack of playing time and/or campaigning for a trade.
With Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni, and Thabo Sefolosha in the fold the Bulls should also be set at small forward. Deng has been off-again, on-again with injuries and has missed the Bulls' last 8 games with ankle trouble. He may return tonight. Nocioni is taking fewer shots this year and missing more of them, though he remains strong from the three-point arc. He's rumored to be on the trade block. Sefolosha has games that make you fall in love with him and then others that make you fall in hate with him. This has been a disappointingly sketchy crew for Chicago this year.
The Bulls' most serious problem is a lack of interior presence. I'm tempted to use the age-old comparison to a doughnut here but I suppose that would be lazy and inaccurate writing. Physicists will tell you that even though the middle of your glazed special looks empty there are actually subatomic particles floating around in there. Cosmologists will point to a miniscule amount of dark matter in that void, holding the doughnut together. The Bulls don't even have that. The biggest reason to be interested in their players 6'10" and over is to see what new abomination Drew Gooden is calling a beard/hair style this month. Seriously, that's a cry for help. The problem is that it's being drown out by the plaintive moans of Bulls fans who are probably drooling over Channing Frye as we speak the same way a destitute college student prowls the cafeteria saying, "You gonna eat that?"
OK...OK...it's not that bad.
That's not true. It is.
The good news is that Gooden has returned from injury (they called it an ankle but I suspect it was related somehow to getting smashed and employing hair clippers) to games of 18 and 10, 16 and 11, and 20 and 12. If the pattern holds he should have 18 and 13 tonight. If the Blazers play right he should sit with 5 fouls in 14 minutes though. After that the Bulls frontcourt sounds like a running joke.
"Tyrus Thomas...ha, ha!"
"No...no...wait! Joakim Noah!!! BWAH-hah-hah-hah!"
"Hold on guys! Wait! I've got it! Aa...haaahahaha... Aar...hahahahahaaa! I can't even say it! Aa...Aa...Aaron G-Gray!!! HAAAAAAAAAAA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!"
"Dude, you just made Bud Light come out my nose!"
The last time these two teams met the Blazers pounded the Bulls by 42. The biggest reason was their utter inability to stop, contain, or alter anything the Blazer big men wanted to do. Aldridge, Oden, Przybilla, and company might as well have spent half the game playing backgammon out on the court.
"Your roll, man."
"Hold up. I've got to go fetch this rebound."
"Naw, I'll get it. You take your turn."
"Hey, man, looks like you stepped in something."
"Oh man! I got some Joakim Noah on my foot. Where's that mop boy?"
The Bulls have a real hard time hitting a shot. They depend heavily on getting mass quantities of shots up in order to score their points. This becomes a problem because they're also fairly poor defenders. They do a good job out on the perimeter but it's open season in the key. As you might expect with that punch line of a frontcourt they are not good rebounders. They take care of the ball fairly well for a team that generates so many possessions. They also shoot foul shots well, though they don't draw enough to make a difference. One thing they do quite well is shoot the three, though again they don't shoot a ton of them. You do have to watch their perimeter players.
Even with their faults the Bulls are still dangerous opponents for the Blazers. Portland has a hard time dealing with guards and that's where Chicago shines. Experienced players like Hughes and Nocioni also gives the Blazers fits when they get on a roll. I'm not saying Portland can't lose this game tonight. They just shouldn't.
Keys to the Game
1. You know how we often say the best technique for an underdog is to outhustle the opponent? Don't let the Bulls outhustle you tonight. Stay focused, get a little scrappy, and fight for possession and good shots.
2. Remember how we attacked the paint against Golden State? Don't erase that game plan. Drive, post, pass...just get the ball in there. There's no reason to feast on jumpers tonight. Superior cuisine is three steps away.
3. Anyone double-teaming any interior player for Chicago tonight with the possible exception of Drew Gooden if he gets mega-hot should have their basketball license revoked. Just worry about the guards. Keep the guards out of transition and away from the rim. Just get a hand in their faces in the halfcourt and you'll be fine. Whatever frosting their big men give them won't be enough to cover the cake.
4. As our TV crew said during the Golden State game the Bulls will probably remember the 42-point pasting and be looking for payback. The best technique here is to use that memory to our advantage. You do that by jumping on them early and putting them down. Then they're hoping to lose by 20 and not by 40 again.
Our goal should be to win all four games on this road trip and walk away happy with three. That's pretty hard if we don't win tonight.
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