The Bulls have won a number of statement games without Derrick Rose, this will prove their toughest test yet. Not only are the Oklahoma City Thunder an elite team, they're an elite team playing well, and playing at home.
Yeah, Derrick is still out
I'm sure Tom Thibodeau has him listed as day to day again, but Rose isn't playing, and I think he's going to be out for awhile. At this point, I have some fear of him missing the rest of the season and potentially the playoffs. Probably overreacting, but there's no true time table on his return, and he's already sat quite awhile.
Nothing can be done but to hope for the best though.
Return of Rip?
Hamilton was widely expected to play last game against the Pistons. He reportedly was pushing to play when Thibodeau overruled him and asked him to sit out another game. Part of me wonders if the Bulls were sensitive to Hamilton coming back too early against Detroit before and didn't want a repeat performance (or the public viewing it as one even if it wasn't).
If Hamilton can go it should be a bone to Chicago to have an extra play maker in the backcourt. Chicago's perimeter players struggled mightily from the field last game against Detroit and will need to play considerably better to beat the Thunder. However, Hamilton is the type of player who can create shots for others and force the opposing defense to move, creating openings for his teammates.
How to slow the big 2?
I'd love Derrick Rose on Russell Westbrook, but since he's out, Westbrook will have a considerable advantage on both of our guards with his size and athleticism. Chicago may be best off putting Brewer on Westbrook and allowing Harden the matchup advantage at SG. Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer are going to need to get physical with Durant and try to beat him up a bit in order to take him off his game.
Quite honestly, the Bulls will likely struggle badly to contain both players on the perimeter, and the Thunder have enough talent in the starting five to burn the hell out of Chicago if they double team much on the outside. They should try and run Durant off the three point line and provide help down low to force him into mid range jumpers. He'll still probably burn the Bulls, but if they can take away his most efficient looks they might limit the damage.
Guards need to play better, but perhaps they're due
The entire perimeter rotation failed to do anything last game. They collectively shot 22.5% (7/31) for 20 points. Quite simply, that won't get it done against the Thunder. The Bulls defense may limit the Thunder some, but they aren't likely to win a game where they score 90 points as the Thunder have been held to under 90 just twice this season.
They've had hot stretches of shooting the ball and will need to knock down threes and find something off the dribble to stay in the game. Chicago will need to hope to find some offense from their big men as well, a tall task against Ibaka and Perkins down low.
Don't expect another miracle
Anything is possible, but the Thunder are still a team on the rise. Much like the Bulls, they'll be fighting for every regular season win. They'll take this as a statement game regardless of whether Rose plays and unlike the Heat will have seen the Bulls beat a slew of good teams with Rose out.
They won't be lulled into a false sense of security or taken off balance. Could the Bulls still win? Sure. They could win. They could have great shooting, the Thunder could have an off night, the ball can bounce in crazy ways any given day.
We'll all hope for the best, but it's disappointing that we're robbed of having Rose in this matchup to truly test ourselves against one of the league's best teams.