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Game 33 Preview: Blazers at Bulls

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A Look at the Bulls

The Bulls are an odd team this year.  Many, myself included, picked them as a darkhorse to go all the way.  Yet they came out flatter than a convenience store pancake, lost 10 of their first 12, and eventually got their coach fired.  Nevertheless they've won 3 of their last 4 primarily on the backs of a resurgent Ben Wallace and young Ben Gordon.  Wallace, now rid from the shackles of Scott Skiles, has perked up and resumed his duties as a premier rebounder.  Gordon has scored 31, 25, 39, and 22 in this recent stretch.  Prior to this week the Bulls had topped 100 only 6 times all season.  They have done it in each of their last four games.

The biggest weakness of the Bulls so far has been a glaring inability to shoot the ball.  They're likely the only team in the league without a single player shooting 50%.  Luol Deng and seldom-used sub Aaron Gray lead them at 47.5%, Joe Smith is next at 46%, and after that it gets really, really ugly.  Everyone else is 42% or below, some far below.  As a team they shoot 41.7%, last in the league.  That said they've been better under Coach Boylan, shooting 43% twice and 50% twice.

Unsurprisingly given their record the Bulls also allow their opponents to shoot well, especially from distance (45% overall and 37% from the three-point arc).

The Bulls are a very good offensive rebounding team and trade off of getting more possessions than their opponents.  They ride the backs of Gordon and Luol Deng for offense.  Wallace provides their defensive anchor, Hinrich distributes...all of the usual suspects are there, up until now it just hasn't been clicking.  That doesn't mean it won't tonight.  In fact the Bulls will probably be more invested in continuing this era of good feelings and recouping their season than we will.  I expect an intense, hard-fought battle.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  Gordon will score a ton of points but for my money the key to the Bulls' success is Luol Deng.  If you contain him and make life difficult their offense will stall and it won't matter if Gordon goes for 40.  He is more than capable of making tough shots but you still have to force him to take them.
  2.  Read my lips:  no...easy...buckets.  No transition, no open lanes, no dunks, and for heaven's sake work hard on the boards so they aren't getting putbacks all night.  
  3.  Speaking of rebounding, getting outmuscled tonight is a serious danger.  We better come ready for a fight.  Fortunately for us Ben Wallace is not well-suited to play against our style, which may force them to go smaller, which may give us an advantage.
  4.  We really need to punish their backcourt when we're on offense, which means driving the ball.  For that reason this may not be the best game for Steve Blake.  We need Jack, Roy, and maybe even Sergio to slice and dice.
Basically our threat to Chicago is our multi-pronged offensive attack spearheaded by the elegance and unselfishness of Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge.  Their threat to us is the explosiveness and athleticism of Deng, Gordon, Thomas, and crew.  Whichever team prosecutes their style with the most energy will probably come out on top.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)