NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 51:
Chicago Bulls (29-20) @ Utah Jazz (28-22)
(Insert long prolonged sigh here)
I remember the last time I was getting ready for a Bulls @ Jazz game and I was trying to see how Carlos Boozer 's "revenge game" would go. Sadly we lost that game, and the entire face of our franchise was changed in the aftermath of that event. For a number of us fans our loyalties were shook up, and I don't think many of us have reached some level of closure or peace from that event. That said, we're a new team, and this is a new game. The Bulls are finishing up the 6th game of a 6 game road trip where they beat the Milwaukee Bucks, lost to the Brooklyn Nets, beat the Atlanta Hawks, lost to the Indiana Pacers, and just last night lost to the Denver Nuggets. If they want to return back to Chicago even then they have to win tonight. The Bulls are 14-9 on the road and pretty motivated to win tonight as they got their butts kicked in their last game.
Over all they are 4th best in the Eastern Conference despite not having Derrick Rose all season long. They've accomplished this by holding teams down to only 91.8 ppg. That's third best in the league. They also play the 4th slowest pace in the league, so that kind of helps. Their defensive rating is 5th, so it's not like their defense is purely pace dictated. It's a factor, but it's not all there is there. Their defense is anchored by Joakim Noah who is averaging 11.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, and 2.1 bpg. Noah is so good that he makes up for Carlos Boozer's defensive anemia. Boozer handles much of the scoring load, and Noah patrols the paint. They are a talented team, and you can't stop saying enough things about Luol Deng. Deng plays 39.8 mpg, but he's not really that great on offense. He does play defense. So beyond playing almost the entire game, he's also playing hard on one side of the ball -- while still putting up 17.1 ppg on the other end.
Al Jefferson also averages 17.1 ppg -- but he's an offense first guy, while Deng is a defense first guy. And yet they average the same number of PPG. That tells you a lot about both players, and both teams. We're not chopped liver though, especially not at home. We're 19-5 at home for the season, and all-time we're 26-18 against the Bulls at home in the regular season. Chicago is a good club, but they'll be without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, and possibly Marco Belinelli. We're without Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell (whaat?), but Earl Watson should be ready to contribute.
Both teams are without their best guards . . . so expect this game to be won or lost in the paint. The Bulls play defense there, and we're going to be equal to the challenge. Furthermore, both teams crash the glass (Chicago is #6 in ORB%, we're #9). It's gotta be strength vs. strength tonight.
Bigs against Bigs.
Noah, Boozer, Taj Gibson, and crew vs. Big Al, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter.
If our wings and guards can break even against theirs then we can win this game. Especially if we win the battle of the boards, and run on them. They're tired, played last night, and we should take every opportunity to run them out of the building, and back to Chicago with their tails between their legs.