The Blazers were having a disappointing season mired around around the .500 mark and decided to mix up the team at the trade deadline as well as bring in a new head coach. Out are Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace, in are Johnny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, Mehmet Okur, and Shawne Williams.
Of the new players, Okur and Williams are out, and I'm not sure whether Flynn or Thabeet will have cleared their physicals at this point [though neither should be much of a factor anyway]. Jamal Crawford may also miss the game for the Blazers.
As for Chicago, Derrick Rose is a game time decision with his groin, but I'm going to guess the decision is no. C.J. Watson is also a game time decision after tweaking his ankle sprain against Miami [though he returned to action afterwards], and Luol Deng is a go tonight despite the LeBron reportedly deliberately trying to smack his wrist to injury him [stay classy LeBron, you douchenozzle you].
How will the Blazers come out in this game? Will they get a dead cat bounce from the roster shake up and new coach or will they completely throw in the towel after management appeared to waive the red flag on the season and trade for future considerations?
How will Chicago respond if Rose and Watson both miss tonight's game? Can John Lucas do it twice in a row? I rather doubt it, the man basically refused to pass the ball. Can Mike James come in and give the Bulls something? Same problem with him.
For now, we'll assume the worst case scenario, because the Bulls should be able to handle the Blazers if they have their guys ready to go.
Where do the Bulls score from?
Boozer will likely get dominated by Aldridge while trying to post up, so it's unlikely Chicago can count much on him, and Luol Deng's ability to penetrate is limited more so than usual because of a flared up left wrist. Chicago's offense is built for the PG to score, and they're potentially down to two players who would not be in the league if they weren't on the Bulls roster.
Chicago will have to hope Korver can give them some hot shooting and that Noah/Gibson can clean up on the offensive glass, because I don't predict good things for the Bulls offense tonight.
At the same time, the Blazers don't have a whole lot going on offensively either. Batum isn't a particularly skilled offensive creator and will struggle against the fundamentally strong Luol Deng. Chicago will likely send Noah up against Aldridge and should be able to do a decent job containing him leaving Portland largely with role players.
Own the glass, own the game
With both teams potentially struggling to create in the half court two things will determine the game. The first is which team can fight harder on the glass to gain an advantage, and the second is which team can control the ball to limit the easy baskets of their opponent.
Taj Gibson has crushed teams on the offensive glass recently, and Joakim Noah's always one of the best in the league. I look for those two guys to play the X-factor role against the Blazers tonight to give the Bulls the extra second chance scoring they need to compensate for any struggles from the field.
At the same time, while James and Lucas don't pass the ball much, this also makes the Bulls a bit less turnover prone. When the Bulls swing the ball all over the place they generate moe open looks, but they also provide more opportunities for their opponents to jump the passing lanes and create big plays.
I envision a James/Lucas guard combination as playing a bit more conservatively and attempting to manage the game more so than trying to push the envelope in the half court.
Prediction: trap game
It can be freeing for a team to play after a trade or coaching change, especially if players had tuned out the coach and started tanking because they were sick of him. My guess is any gain from that will be mitigated by the serious drop in talent they just had by sending away Camby/Wallace and the emotional impact of losing those players.
The Bulls will also need to guard against the let down game after getting a big win against Miami without Derrick Rose. It's difficult to remain focused after a big win when going up against a pedestrian team that just lost two of its key players.
All that said, I expect Chicago to find a way to come out on top. Tom Thibodeau will keep the guys focused, and Chicago still should come to the court with more talent despite their injuries.