With center Joakim Noah out for three weeks minimum, the Bulls are hoping to see Taj Gibson continue his strong play. Gibson is averaging a solid 12.2 points and 10.6 rebounds in the nine games he's played since the All-Star break. The 6'9 forward from USC has also increased his efficiency during that time, and is shooting 59% from the floor. The rookie has quietly stepped up his shot-blocking as well over that time span, as he is now averaging 1.2 for the season. Forgotten in all this is the fact that his damage is done in less than 30 minutes a game.
Forward Luol Deng and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose are both probable for tonight. Rose has gone through a rough week with knee bumps and hits to his body, which is never a good thing to see this late in the season.
The Memphis Grizzlies with Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, O.J Mayo and Rudy Gay have been the big surprise team this season. Mostly known as scorers and shot-takers, this group came together and started playing solid basketball. They're currently ninth in the Western Conference, with a 31-30 record. They've done this without much help from the 2nd overall pick in last June's draft, Hasheem Thabeet. The 7'3 center from Connecticut was sent down to the D-League and is the highest drafted player to be so.
While Memphis found a way to play together, they're still not sharing the ball as much as they could. 19.4 assists per game compared to 23.0 for their opponents. The Bulls will have to clog the lane against Randolph and Gasol, while trying to take away open lanes for Gay and Mayo. Tonight calls for a lot of defensive communication for the Bulls.
This is a game where rookie James Johnson could make a positive effect. Johnson has shown potential as a shot-blocker and has a large enough frame to be able to handle contact. Against an athletic beast like Rudy Gay, Johnson's size and mobility could help the Bulls slowing him down a bit. Johnson started against Atlanta and had nine points in his first starting gig in the NBA.
Chris Richard and his motor is back in the Windy City. The Bulls waived Lindsey Hunter to make room, and Richard will have to do his best Joakim Noah impression, by keeping balls alive and rebounding.