The Chicago Bulls head into Toronto to face the Raptors and the big question will be Derrick Rose's effectiveness in the game assuming that he's able to play. The Raptors are on the second game of a back to back, having lost to Charlotte in Charlotte last night, so the Bulls should be the fresher team outside of the concerns with Derrick.
Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are both game time decisions but are both expected to play. Rose's injury is well documented. Noah's injury has been going on for awhile but hasn't been reported until yesterday:
Noah has been battling sore knuckles and tendons on his right hand for
weeks. He has been taping his knuckles. The Tribune reported late
Tuesday that management has held internal discussions about resting
Noah, whose situation hasn't improved. Surgery has not been ruled out, if that becomes necessary to fix the problem.
Keys to the game
Play Taj Gibson some heavy minutes
Bargnani is a stretch 5 in the Raptors lineup, so initially, you can stick either Noah or Boozer on him. Boozer's been killed by stretch players thus far this year, but putting Noah on him takes him away from the basket mitigating one of his best strengths.
The solution to this problem is to play Taj Gibson more as both Noah and Taj will be able to stay with Bargnani on the perimeter, defend the pick and roll, or help protect the paint. A Noah/Taj combination gives you the combination of interior and perimeter defense you need to stop a stretch 4/5 type player while still defending the basket.
Granted, the Bulls don't want to pull Boozer out of the starting lineup, the first goal is to force the Raptors to adjust to you. In that vein, start Noah on Bargnani and the odds are good that the Raptors can't take advantage of Boozer down low enough for it to matter anyway, but if defense becomes an issue the game plan is already set for Gibson to play some more minutes.
Find ways to attack the paint
With a healthy Derrick Rose, I'd say it was his time to shine in the paint all night long. The Raptors defense makes swiss cheese look like the great wall of China. If Derrick is beat up, the Bulls will need to find other ways to get into the paint which will likely include Carlos Boozer getting the ball in the post and finding Luol Deng or Ronnie Brewer on cuts to the basket.
Granted, Derrick Rose likely doesn't know the meaning of "take it easy", so he'll probably live in the paint anyway. Given that he's just sore, if he guts out the pain he's unlikely to hurt himself further.
As Stacey would say, "KYP people!" - Know your personnel
The Raptors don't shoot as many threes as you'd think, but you have to always be aware of Andrea Bargnani launching them behind the arc and playing off of the perimeter. Outside of Bargnani, Barbosa, Bayless, and Kleiza will launch threes. Everyone else will play almost entirely inside the arc.
The Raptors are low on talent and depleted by injuries so just handle the fundamentals
The Raptors have good rebounding numbers on the season, but a large part of that was Reggie Evans dominating the glass. While Amir Johnson and Ed Davis have done a serviceable job on the glass this season, the Bulls should be able to gain the advantage on the boards with Evans out of the game.
The Raptors are also missing Jose Calderon who could run the offense and shoot the ball, and Jerryd Bayless is more prone to turning the ball over and less prone to running an NBA offense that creates looks for others. As such, the Bulls should unleash Brewer on the Raptors backcourt to force turnovers and create easy points.
On their side, just keeping focus, not turning the ball over, boxing out, and doing the little things well should result in a win.
The Raptors aren't too good to begin with, and their injuries leave them even more vulnerable. On top of that, they're coming off a back to back. That's a lot of stuff set against them for this game, and the only thing that would even the score is if Derrick Rose is unable to play or unable to play effectively.
Otherwise, the Bulls are better coached, have more talent, and should come away with a win.