The Chicago Bulls roll into Houston to face a Rockets team with more injury issues than us. Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks will miss the game for certain while Chase Budinger is questionable. The Bulls may be missing Kyle Korver, who is listed as questionable after having an MRI on his knee to check out an injury from Saturday's win against Washington, as well as Carlos Boozer who will likely return to the court shortly after the road trip ends.
The Rockets have Kevin Martin and Luis Scola playing at a high level, but unfortunately for Rockets fans, they aren't getting much help with Brooks and Ming out. The Rockets are off to a 3-6 start, and a game that looked like a push in preseason looks like one the Bulls should win right now.
After learning of the Boozer injury, my initial fear was a 5-10 start that the Bulls would struggle to dig their way out of and eliminate us from talk of the 3rd seed and make the 4th seed a challenge. However, after a 5-3 start, my Bulls aspirations are much higher. In order to reach them, this becomes one of the key games the Bulls should get.
With three back to backs and four games in five nights over one stretch, you want to get this early one while the team is rested and going up against a mediocre team.
Keys to the game
Speed up the game
While you frequently want to slow down the game against worse teams, the Bulls have the personnel to run the Rockets right off the court, particularly their big men where Luis Scola and Brad Miller are their highest minute big men. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson can destroy these guys with speed and without Aaron Brooks, the Rockets have no one who can hope to match up with Derrick Rose on a fast break (or in the half court for that matter).
The Bulls are more susceptible in a half court game against the Rockets because of Luis Scola's post up game, Brad Miller's craftiness, and positional defenders like Shane Battier can do the most damage that way. If the Bulls can keep the tempo up, then they'll run away with this one.
Derrick can't settle for the jumper
As noted in the speed section, there's absolutely no one on the Rockets
who has any chance in hell of checking Derrick Rose, but not only do
they have no perimeter defenders who can slow Rose down, they also have
no interior defenders to help when he blows by his man.
As such, Derrick Rose needs to live in the paint. He should get there
easily all night long and find his teammates or finish for himself, but
the offense should flow through Rose even more than normal with this
Joakim Noah needs to play with focus
He has a huge matchup advantage regardless of who they put on him, so he merely needs to focus on doing the things he does to come up with big returns. The Bulls should try to keep Joakim in the game when Brad Miller is in the game and run Brad right off the court with early offense. Noah should also have no problem dominating the glass, and with the lack of speed the Rockets have on the interior, he'll have ample offensive rebounding opportunities if the Bulls stay in attack mode.
Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, and Keith Bogans need to D up
Presuming they'll largely be defending Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, they'll be responsible for stopping the majority of the Rockets offense which bodes well for the Bulls as they've been three of the Bulls best defenders early this season.
If they can control their defensive matchups, the Rockets simply don't have the personnel to score from other positions right now. The Bulls can even afford to help considerably against these two if needed.
This is a game the Bulls should win. In fact, it's a game the Bulls should own. The injury depleted Rockets are missing several important players, and the Bulls match up extraordinary well against them.
Our best defenders naturally line up against their best offensive players while our best offensive players have no one who can check them opposing them. While anything can happen, if these teams played 100 times with the lineups going tonight, the Bulls would probably win 85 of the games with 30+ blowouts.