The Chicago Bulls have two marquee games on this road trip. They lost the first in Miami, and the second is tonight against the 76ers. The 76ers present many of the challenges they struggle most with and have played exceptionally well this season.
Walking wounded update
Richard Hamilton and Luol Deng with both miss tonight's game. Richard Hamilton will sit until further notice and the Bulls have described the period to be "until he's fully healthy". They don't want him to continue to re-aggravate the injury.
Luol Deng might play tomorrow against the Knicks, but I'm going to go ahead and say that the gap between today and tomorrow probably isn't enough that he plays. Either way, fans can probably expect Deng back before Hamilton.
Keys to the game
How to solve the defense?
The 76ers have an extremely athletic defense, particularly around the perimeter. With the Bulls short on perimeter options and the 76ers likely to blitz Rose all night long with double teams, Chicago will need to find an answer to outlet the ball to and find an open look.
Kyle Korver will obviously space the floor and should play big minutes again. The Bulls best outlets will probably be to throw to Brewer on the baseline or Noah/Boozer at the top of the key. Chicago will need to make a concerted effort to make multiple quick passes to overcome the quick recovery time of the Philly defense.
Joakim Noah should hit the offensive glass hard from the weak side when Rose drives to the rim as his man will likely need to do a whole lot of helping. Hopefully Carlos Boozer's jumper is falling tonight as well.
The Bulls may wish to consider using C.J. Watson at SG tonight for some minutes to get some extra scoring potential and shot creation on the floor.
MVP time for Derrick Rose
Rose has played in near peak form the past two games and has dominated opponents. The Bulls will likely need a similar effort from Rose tonight to carry the team and create easy offensive opportunities for his teammates.
The 76ers can blitz Rose, but he's proven he can overcome the double blitz as well.
The 76ers also lack a shot blocker to throw at Rose. Their defense will look to trap him on the perimeter, but if he can split the double teams, work a give and go, or come off screens successfully then he should have a field day once he gets in the paint.
Defend the paint, but KYP
The 76ers shoot one of the highest three point percentages in the NBA, but they also shoot them at a low volume. There are only a few shooters Chicago really needs to watch out for Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, and Jrue Holiday.
Even amongst those guys, I'd only really commit heavily to Meeks on the perimeter. The other guys I'd feel comfortable running at with controlled cover.
Otherwise, the Bulls should look to defend the paint and put their greatest emphasis on stopping Philadelphia from slashing into the lane and getting easy hoops. Chicago may want to whip out some more of the zone defense they employed briefly against Miami.
Punish the small ball
Without Spencer Hawes, the 76ers will play small most of the night. Chicago should have a large advantage with Noah in at center [and to a lesser extent Asik]. They need to get him the ball when he gets someone particularly smaller than him matched up and both of our centers need to play extremely aggressively on the offensive glass to punish Philly's lack of size.
Elton Brand's the only legit big man they have, and the Bulls should look to take advantage of his limited athleticism. Particularly when Taj is lined up against him. We should have a significant size advantage all night.
Go get this one
Chicago's lost it's last two games that meant anything. Quite simply, it's time to go win one against a quality opponent. I believe the Bulls will do just that tonight.
Filed under: Game Threads