The Chicago Bulls were supposed to be the only legitimate preseason rival in the Eastern Conference to the LeBron Jameseses, I mean, Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers sit 7th in the East, while the bulls are a much more respectable 3rd. They've done so while having another on-again / off-again relationship with their star player Derrick Rose, who will not be influenced towards playing more basketball than he wants to bother suiting up for. #Ironman #NotReallyThough
Anyway, the Bulls are once again in the middle of one of their murderous road trips: @ LAC (W), @ SAC (L), @ POR (L), @ UTA, @ DEN, @ BOS, @ BKN. Three games into it the Bulls are 1-2, and on the season are 6-2 outside of their gym. The real question here is attention and the number of effs the team has to give. Taj Gibson is not with the team. Kirk Hinrich is doubtful. Pau Gasol is probable. And Derrick Rose is questionable / close / a game time decision. For those keeping score at home, and with Tom Thibodeau 's substitution pattern, that's four of his top seven MPG guys this season. The Gods won't be so kind to have all of them out, and let's be real, they have enough talent to beat us when they are injured and tired. After all, there was a reason beyond star power and market size that made them preseason favorites to make the Eastern Conference Finals this year. (And beyond the poor depth and quality of the East, as well...)
The Bulls are supposed to be a great defensive team, but so far they haven't put it all together yet. They lost their last two games by the largest margins of any of their losses so far this season and may be looking to make some noise. They play at the 18th fastest pace, and have the 15th best offense (106.7 OFF RTG) and 12th best defense (104.6 DEF RTG). They are long, disciplined, and hard to score on. On defense they make you take bad shots and put a hand in your face. They have the 6th best eFG% of any defense, and they don't put you to the line. Either that's favoritism, length, ability, or a mix of it all, but the FT/FGA ratio for their opponents is only .205, good enough for 13th best in the NBA. They don't gamble, and as a result don't collect a lot of steals (27th in the NBA, 22nd in TOV%), and they are in the bottom third in clearing the defensive glass, as a percentage of all the opponents misses. They still do gather 32.8 defensive boards a game, and a very robust 42.8 a game. That's what a Paul Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson team gets you, we guess.
Offensively they aren't frightening, but they do get to the line a lot, take care of the ball 'kinda well' (15th), but get good shots. This is a disciplined team that looks for advantages. Either through smart passing (Noah), individual ability and athleticism (Rose), high basketball IQ (Gasol, and Hinrich), or flat out "right time / right place-ism" (Gibson). The one guy who is really taking advantage of all the Rose-less time has been Jimmy Butler. The Bulls preview framed him as "the guy Alec Burks wants to become". (They also said in the comments section that they'd take Butler over Hayward, so, yeah.)
They're an interesting squad, when healthy. When injured you don't know what you're going to get.
Yes, this is the Nazr Mohammed revenge game. Or the fight for Australia #44839 as Cameron Bairstow goes up against Dante Exum and Joe Ingles. Or, well, just a match where we're probably going to get one of Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich and Pau Gasol playing + the rest of their deep team. Yikes. Not having Taj Gibson is very helpful. He's turning into a great player, very Millsap-ian. If the team can trick Gasol into trying to beat the Jazz by himself (through scoring) the team will have a chance. They are just too smart to fall for it though, and I am certain that guys like Mike Dunleavy always burn our team with 3rd and 4th quarter three pointers. It's going to be interesting to see if that happens tonight, I was wrong about Ryan Anderson the other night.
The Jazz are on the bad side of .500 right now, but there are parts there that are slowly coming together. One of the main concerns has been with the backcourt of Alec Burks and Trey Burke. Only one of them seems to have a good game on a given night, never both. Alec can make threes, but doesn't take many, doesn't appear to be attacking the paint enough, and isn't getting to the line a lot. His staple seems to have been recently replaced with midrange shots that he thinks he can make, that unfortunately go in enough for him to feel like taking more of them. These are "eye test" shots that shooters fall in love with, like Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. This means Alec is moving away from being a high damage, highly effective player into being a volume shooter. Not good. Trey Burke occasionally looks brilliant or awful. There's no middle ground with him. I guess part of that is that he's only a few days north of his 22nd birthday. Consistency will come with time.
Also, the Jazz need to feed Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter more. They are killing it on offense. Give them the rock. And I am being a broken record here, but there is no one on their team who can stop Gordon Hayward. He should go for high 20s again, if not 30s tonight. I hope he can get some more help tonight.
I'm looking for someone off the bench to step up, because, well, you know, if you're not contributing why aren't we trading you again? #triggerwarning
Or, please Alec, just play like you can? For a game even?
Alec Burks and Jimmy Butler. I think Alec is better. He's not playing like it though. We'll see who gets it done tonight.
- Rodney Hood (UTA) is OUT, again, with you know what
- Derrick Rose (CHI) -- has a left hamstring injury, and is listed as questionable / game time decision
- Pau Gasol (CHI) -- has a left calf strain, is listed as probable / game time decision
- Jimmy Butler (CHI) -- has a left thumb sprain, but listed as a starter for tonight by the Bulls Media
- Taj Gibson (CHI) -- has a sprained left ankle and isn't with the team on this trip
- Kirk Hinrich (CHI) -- has a bruised chest and is doubtful to tonight
- Nikola Mirotic (CHI) -- he has a bruised right thumb is is probable for tonight
Give us a Game 7 for 1998. I'm not over it.