Derrick Rose has never defeated the Lakers.
Joakim Noah has never defeated the Lakers.
It's time for those streaks to end.
The Lakers roll into Chicago in what many believe to be Phil Jackson's final United Center appearance. Why those people think the Lakers won't make it to the finals out west is beyond me, because he should have a minimum of two more in June [i kid].
Both teams should be motivated after struggling to barely escape with road victories against sub-par opponents on Wednesday. The Bulls have the distinction of being the Lakers only victory against a +500 team this season, so the Lakers really are playing at a level that plenty of other good teams find beatable.
Keys to the game
Make Kobe selfish and force him to shoot a lot
Sound counter intuitive? Kobe's averaging a shade under 26 shots per game in losses and a shade over 18 shots per game in wins. When Kobe enters "I'm going to take this on myself" mode, the Lakers aren't winning basketball games, so try and force him into that mode. Pau Gasol, on the other hand, averages 14 shots in losses and 15 shots in wins.
While the mainstream media hasn't caught on to this yet, Pau Gasol is the key to the Lakers now. Granted, the Bulls forced him into a terrible game last time and still lost, but slowing Gasol is still the key to winning. As for Kobe, he can go off and drop 50 on you, but when he's throwing up a crapload of shots he's forced more Laker losses than 50 point miracle wins.
The bench won't repeat their performance of last game, so let them try
The biggest difference between home/road games is typically the performance of the non-star players. The stars frequently bring it no matter where they are, but benches often play dramatically better at home than on the road.
The Bulls lost in LA due to the Laker bench dominating the hell out of the Bulls bench. They went insane from behind the three point line crushing us with bombs whenever the Bulls would make a run.
You don't want to give the bench open three point looks, because it is filled with good shooters, but the Bulls contested the Laker's shooters pretty well for the most part, and they hit shots. Contesting them at a similar level will yield better results this time.
The Bulls bench needs to bring it
The corollary to the previous point is that the Korver/Brewer/Gibson need to bring it for the Bulls. Their team is fundamentally stronger this time with Boozer back, so they should have more bench strength. We need our bench to play well and win that battle, because we can't count on Rose/Noah/Boozer outperforming Kobe/Gasol/Odom.
Carlos Boozer (and the rest of the Bulls) need to stay out of no man's land
Boozer's struggled against stretch fours. He tends to get caught trying to help down low and get rebound position, but then gets burned by the outside shooting. The result is that Boozer frequently tries to help, is late on run outs, and then is out of rebound position and failed to contest the shot.
You've got to make Boozer stay close to his shooter or have someone else help on his shooter and keep him down low for rebound position. You don't want to fail to contest and fail to rebound, you have to get at least one of those two things, but being caught in the middle as he often is yields nothing.
When Boozer is on the weak side and providing help he needs to have better recognition of the swing pass and get out to his man quicker as the ball moves. The same theory applies to all Bulls players, as the Lakers have great shooters and post players, so help is necessary but recognizing when to get back home on your man is critical.
The Bulls haven't fared well in statement games this season, but here's another one. Given that neither Rose or Noah has ever beaten the Lakers, I think it's imperative for their psyche to get that monkey off their back. The Lakers have won three in a row, much like the Bulls, but were coming off of four losses prior to that.
They aren't playing a particularly dominant brand of basketball, and the Bulls are playing at home. The Lakers should be favorites, but this is a game the Bulls can get if they focus, play well, and the Laker bench tightens up a bit.