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Game 12 Preview: Bulls vs. Blazers

Let’s get one thing out of the way from the jump.  This isn’t a gimme game for the Blazers, as tempting as it is to think of it as such (comparatively, anyway) after facing such a long, rough road trip.  There are a few reasons for that:


1.  As we said yesterday, even though this is a home game in name it’s actually our fifth game in eight days, a back-to-back off of the tail end of a road trip.  The crowd’s energy will help but this is still an extension of that long trip.  Thankfully Chicago is also playing back-to-back and wasn’t waiting here for us.


2.  Chicago is 5-6.  Here are the teams they have beaten:  Milwaukee, Memphis, Phoenix, Dallas, Indiana.  Here are the teams they have lost to:  Boston, Orlando, Cleveland (twice), Atlanta, and the L*kers.  Outside of Indiana the first group tend to be offensive-oriented teams with mediocre-to-shaky defenses.  The second group tends more towards lock-down units.  The Blazers belong more in the first group than the second.


3.  What do the Blazers have trouble with, children?  (Chorus of high-octave cherubic voices:  Big scoring wing players!”)  That’s right!  Can you say Derrick Rose, children?  (Dewwick Wose!)  Good!  I thought you could.  Now can you say Ben Gordon?  (Ben Gowdon!)  Did you know he scored 32 points in the game he played against us last year and averaged 25 against us the year before?  Can you say Luol Deng, children?  (Wouw…Wuoh…Woowoo)  That’s OK children, because he strained his groin and only played a little while against the L*kers last night.  He might not even play tonight.  That’s good news for the Blazers.  Do you know what a groin is, children?


A Look at the Bulls


This year’s Bulls are all about the backcourt.  Ben Gordon is averaging 21 points and 4 assists, Derrick Rose 19 points, 5.5 assists, and 5 rebounds.  Both are shooting extremely well.  Both can score from all over the court.  Both draw some fouls and hit all their free throws.  Neither turns the ball over much. It’s a potent one-two punch especially against challenged NBA defenses.  The frontcourt consists of players you’ve been familiar with for the past couple seasons.  Deng is the athletic small forward.  He’s not shooting well at all and his scoring is down to 15 points a game but he can still rack you up if you don’t move your feet.  Andres Nocioni is the shooter.  Drew Gooden is the rebounder.  Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas are the youngsters.  The Bulls mix and match in their frontcourt, going with the combinations that work on a given night.  They’re exploitable but serviceable…most nights.  Sometimes all of the young big guys are wobbly and then the Bulls have to go with a small-fest.


The best thing about the Bulls’ season so far has been their 42.7% shooting allowed, good for 7th in the league.  The worst thing has been their own 42% shooting clip, 28th in the league.  Their offense is fairly standard, they just have trouble when anybody but Gordon or Rose shoots the ball.  They rely heavily on drawing fouls.  They eschew the three-point shot.  Only Gordon and Nocioni really take them.  They rebound reasonably well--high average really--but they do allow opponents to hit the offensive glass.  They are among the league leaders in steals and turnovers forced.

The Bulls are 0-4 on the road so far this season, unsurprising for a team with key injuries playing youngsters.


Keys to the Game


1.  Obviously tonight is all about shutting down the guards.  Frankly the Blazers shouldn’t care how many shots Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas take.  It’s almost to the point that Blazer fans should applaud dunks from those two because it means that Rose and Gordon aren’t taking the shot.  Portland has to find some way to shadow those two and keep a hand in their faces all night.  The best way to handle Gordon may be to punish him on the other end, pounding and running and making him defend.


2.  The Bulls cannot shoot as a team.  The blueprint against teams like that is simple:  don’t let them have easy looks that even a numbskull could hit.  No breaks, no offensive rebounds for putbacks.  Just play your offense against my offense and my offense will win.  Basic game…no tricks.


3.  Energy early will help.  Portland doesn’t need to play another game where they’re trailing and have to come from behind in the fourth.


4.  Lamarcus…Chicago traded you.  They didn’t want you.  “Ha, ha, ha!  Lamarcus Aldridge looks goofy in our Bulls cap!” they said on draft day.  “Let us get rid of him posthaste!”  Make…them…pay.  I don’t care if Greg Oden is hogging lane space.  Make…them…pay.


5.  Greg…Rebound everything that bounces.  If they go with that small lineup, dunk everything you touch.


6.  If Luol Deng doesn’t play then try to slice and dice on Nocioni as well as Gordon.  A three-guard offense might work here.


Storylines to Watch


1.  Battle of the First Overall Picks


You’ve got Rose, we’ve got Oden.  Who’s happier?


2.  Lamarcus:  Thumpin’ or Slumpin’?


The Golden State game was one of the most frustrating of his career.  He may be facing small, quick guys again.  Can he make a comeback?  (My prediction is yes.)  Can he play with Oden out there?  (My prediction is that this will take more time to look smooth.)


3.  Oden’s First Home Game


What’s the reception going to be like?


4.  Which Trend Prevails?


Chicago is 0-4 on the road but 3-1 against the Western Conference.  But then Portland is 3-0 at home and 2-0 against the East.  (Can you believe the Blazers have only played three home games so far?)


Final Thoughts


We have two more on the road right after this.  It would be nice to pick up a win.


Check out the Bulls’ point of view at  BlogaBull


You can enter the Jersey Contest  here.


Thanks to Hightide for the heads up on Deng in his fanpost.


--Dave (