The Bulls will roll into New Orleans with two days of rest to face a Hornets team that just defeated the Orlando Magic last night. Typically such situations, when all other things are equal, give the rested team a fairly significant advantage.
Now one might think things aren't equal, the Bulls are the better team anyway. However, the Hornets are 20-7 at home while the Bulls are just 12-12 on the road. Both teams have dominated on their home court and struggled on the road making this a tough test for Chicago.
Obviously the highlight of the night will be the matchup at PG. Derrick Rose recently destroyed one contender for best PG in the NBA when the Bulls defeated the Jazz and Rose personally crushed Deron Williams on both ends of the court. His life won't get any easier tonight against Chris Paul.
Paul's a different breed of PG than Deron Williams. Williams has great all around game with no weaknesses. He's more physical and not quite as athletic using pacing, tempo, and the system to dominate. On the other hand, Rose now is up against one of the few players who might have a quickness advantage on him. Paul also has among the best ball handling and court vision in the league.
Keys to the game
Get physical with Paul
Derrick Rose has a physical advantage on Paul. More height, more strength. Push that advantage on both ends. Drive into Paul on offense and force him to foul or score over him. Rose should be able to force the issue on Rose defensively and use his height / strength to score on him off the dribble.
On defense crowd him on the perimeter, bump him some, and keep him off balance a bit, and try to break his rhythm. The Bulls have previously used Noah to help defend the pick and roll with Paul as he could stick with Paul on the perimeter, but they won't have that luxury this game.
Boozer better bring it on offense
David West is the type of PF that Boozer should play pretty well on both
ends. West is similar to Boozer in that he doesn't have elite size or
speed for his position. As such, Boozer's trickery down low should work
a bit better. I'm looking for a lot of productivity from Boozer offensively.
In fact, Boozer probably has the best offensive advantage of any player on the team tonight, so go to Boozer frequently and let him do what he does.
Rotate, rotate, rotate
You have to assume there's going to be a lot of penetration off the pick and roll. Especially with Boozer having little hope to effectively hedge Paul after the screen.
As such, the center will need to step up to help defend on Paul at the rim, and Luol Deng will need to rotate and help defend the basket. The Bulls will need to be prepared for smart and swift rotations all night to try and shut down Paul's passing game as much as possible or at least force the recipients of those passes to shoot long jumpers rather than dunks.
with Boozer doing his half hedge on the guard where he puts himself in no man's land and guards no one. I'd love to stay Boozer should step up and play better defense, but I don't think he has
Execute in the half court
What's surprising about these two teams is that they both have elite, incredibly fast PGs, but neither team really wants to run all that much. On top of that, both are defensive oriented squads who win first through defense despite the flashy offense of their stars.
As such, the outcome of the game will come down to half court execution and opportunistic scoring on the break. Trevor Ariza is a particularly bad matchup for Luol Deng defensively and the Bulls don't get much out of the SG/C spots offensively. As such, it's really going to come down to Boozer, Rose, and open jumpers.
Well this is the rubber game in the trip. I had hoped for a 4-1 road trip, but that's obviously not in the cards. Still, this would be a big road win as it's easily the toughest game on the trip. If the Bulls pull this one out, we should feel pretty good about the 3-2 trip.
If they lose, it's not the end of the world, but the trip will certainly be a disappointment as a whole at 2-3.
Update -- Emeka Okafor is going to miss the game which should make things considerably easier for the Bulls. Aaron Gray's a better matchup for Kurt Thomas defensively, and he won't be able to help on dribble penetration the way Okafor could.
As such, I think the Bulls odds in this game just went up considerably.