The Bulls have struggled to knock off a rather unimpressive cast of teams recently, yet they've still managed to win 13 of their past 15 games. The Toronto Raptors, another struggling club, visit the United Center tonight.
The Raptors may get a boost from Andrea Barngani and Jerryd Bayless returning to the team though they may be without PG Jose Calderon. A team that was bound to struggle already has been hit by significant injuries, exacerbating their problems.
Even if Bargnani plays, he'll likely be limited in minutes and impact without having significant practice/game time recently. It's another game that the Bulls should win.
Keys to the game
Know your personnel
The Raptors don't look like they have a lot of three point shooting, but Calderon, Kleiza, Barngani, and Barbosa can all get hot. The group, as a whole, are shooting well below their career averages, but they can hurt you if given room to shoot, so don't become the slump buster for them.
Players like Bayless and DeRozen aren't likely to launch shots from downtown, and they're going to look to drive, so play them for the drive and dare them to shoot.
Dominate the glass
The Bulls should have a considerable advantage on the interior, particularly if Amir Johnson sits out the game. The Bulls can really raise their margin of error in the game tremendously by having Boozer/Thomas box out well and collecting rebounds.
Gibson can get it going
This strikes me as a good game for Gibson to get out of his slump. The Raptors aren't great defensively, the Bulls should be able to crash the glass offensively which should allow him some offensive rebound opportunities, and if Bargnani plays, Gibson's a great guy to chase him around the perimeter.
Derrick Rose shouldn't settle for jumpers
There are games where Rose has used his three pointer to great affect. However, the Raptors don't have much in the way of interior defense, so Rose, along with Deng and Boozer, should focus his efforts on getting into the paint.
I've said it lots recently, it looks like an easy win on paper, but the Bulls aren't going to win all the easy games (despite the fact that so far they have outside of a 1 point loss to the Clippers).
It wouldn't surprise me to see them drop one of these games, especially given how closely they're playing many of them.
For their part, the team doesn't seem real happy with it's level of play, but I still think they'll pull the game out.