As I expected, the Bulls enter their third game of the season after splitting their first two games. If the Bulls are to overachieve in November, this is one of the 'winnable' games where I'd generally consider them an underdog.
Working against the Bulls is a lack of depth and poor play by everyone outside of Rose, Noah, and James Johnson's 19 minutes, but working for them is the game is at home, and Portland doesn't have anyone who scares the crap out of me on offense.
Derrick is accounting for an absurd percentage of the offense, but what's scariest is that when Rose is not in the game, and the Bulls aren't forcing turnovers for transition hoops, the offense is downright scary bad.
Rose is creating off the dribble, but the Bulls don't appear to have any other half court options working whatsoever right now.
2: Push the tempo
The Blazers like to slow down the game and make it a half court affair, which is an interesting choice given the youth and athleticism of their personnel. That said, the Bulls struggle in the half court and excel when forcing turnovers and ramping up the pace of the game. If they get stuck in a half court slugfest, then they're far more likely to struggle in this game.
3: Will James Johnson get another chance, and can he deliver?
He had a PER of 34.4 last game, so let's not expect that to happen again. However, the question is will he get another chance, and will he generally play well? Right now, Bogans, Luol, Korver, and Brewer are all struggling a lot, and Korver's the only one who's such a threat that he impacts the game even while struggling.
Johnson's outplayed all of those guys (except Deng) all preseason long. I'd be tempted to try Johnson on Brandon Roy defensively at some point in this game, because he's probably better than anyone else we can throw on Roy at this point.
It was great to see JJ step up last game, but I'm far away from believing he an bring large positives like that to the floor every night. Still, no one else is bringing anything, so I'd like to see the Bulls try.
4: Can the Bulls win the front court battle?
The Bulls need to win the front court battle in this one, because the Blazers are going to win the perimeter battle unless Derrick Rose is simply unreal again. Their depth on the perimeter vastly exceeds ours given how our players have performed so far.
However, the Bulls should have a large advantage with Noah going up against Camby and need Taj Gibson to hold his own against LaMarcus Aldridge. I like Noah to outplay Camby, and think Taj is the type of guy who can annoy LaMarcus Aldridge with his physicality and perseverance.
Talentwise, I think it's a push between the frontcourts, but we need to win this battle to win the war much more than they do.
5: Luol Deng, where are you?
I'm not asking you to create your own shot. I'm not asking you to play like an all-star. I am asking you to hit open jumpers, rebound, and show up to the game though. Your PER on the season is .6. Less than 1. You're better than that, and tonight would be a good night to remind people of that fact.
I think the Blazers are a bit better than the Bulls while we're missing Boozer, but they're not tons better, and the Bulls are playing at home. I'd make us slight underdogs for the game, but it's one that they can get out there and win, and if they want to at least tread water around .500 before Boozer gets back, it's one of the easier "hard" games they'll have a chance to pull an upset in.