The Bulls kick off Martin Luther King day with a national TV game and a crippled roster. Carlos Boozer will miss the game after injuring his ankle on the final Bulls offensive possession against the Miami Heat. Boozer's prospects for a quick return don't seem good, and he'll likely miss at least the following two games as well.
As such, the Bulls come into the game against the Grizzlies undermanned in the front court without both Boozer and Noah. How will they respond? Will they go small? Bring James Johnson back into the rotation? Hope Omer and Gibson can play big minutes?
Those are the options that Tom Thibodeau has at his disposal.
Keys to the game
Speed up the game
With Carlos Boozer out and Taj Gibson in, this is a prime opportunity to get back to the running Chicago Bulls. The Grizzlies have far more talent in the frontcourt with the Bulls injuries, but they have slow talent. Play James Johnson in a small lineup, play Deng at the four, and Gibson at the five, then run and run and run. The Bulls have the capability of playing at a very high pace, but they haven't done so since Noah was hurt.
Given that they aren't likely to match up well in the half court offensively with a Gibson/Thomas/Asik rotation at PF/C, change the game and make Grizzlies front court struggle to keep up in an up and down game.
The guards need to rebound
The Bulls are missing their two best rebounders and as such, they'll need to play with very high energy to keep from being dominated on the glass. They're going to need the guards to help pick up the slack on the glass. Kurt Thomas and Asik can help box out, but the guards will need to help crash the glass to grab those boards too.
It's all you Derrick
Sometimes you need to just step back and let your superstar win the game for you. Derrick Rose has risen to that superstar level, and coming in undermanned, the Bulls will rely on Rose more so than usual.
Since they won't have a low post game of any impact, the Bulls should space the floor and run more isolations for Rose rather than pick and rolls which will result in a trap every time due to the ineffectiveness of the Bulls front court option.
Milk the Deng/Rose pick and roll in the small lineup
It's too much work to run isolations all day for Rose, as he'll wear down. One option to give him a pick, but defeat a trap is to run the pick and roll with Luol Deng. Deng can punish the defense for a trap far more so than Thomas or Gibson can, and the option has been successful for the Bulls in the past when they've employed it.
Role players need to step up
Everyone's importance goes up a notch in this game, so the role players, particularly Luol Deng, need to give the Bulls more on offense than they are typically required. Hopefully Korver can come out shooting and Watson can give the Bulls some quality minutes because the Bulls will need shooting out of both to play small effectively.
Bring the defense
The one thing the Bulls have going for them in this game is that Boozer's a rather weak defender. The Bulls defense may look better now with him out. In order to win this game, they'll probably need one of those elite defensive efforts where they hold the Grizzlies down to 90 or fewer points.
The Bulls are probably underdogs in this game given their injuries and the fact that it's a road game. They'll need to play with a lot of energy on focus on both ends of the court in order to come up with a win.