After a huge win in New York where Chicago lost the rebounding battle, turnover battle, and allowed 50% three point shooting but cruised to an easy victory anyway. The Bulls followed up that performance by throwing enough bricks to build five bedroom house against Phoenix and need to figure out how to win at home against the Hawks.
Ignore the total rebounding numbers, the Bulls won the battle of the glass with 18 offensive rebounds to Phoenix's nine. They forced seven additional turnovers. They also got blown out and had no chance in the game. Unlike the Knicks game, the Bulls couldn't hit the broad side of the barn, and Chicago has now fallen to 10-10 at home losing to some fairly pathetic teams, like these Phoenix Suns.
Nothing like watching ultra-scrub Michael Beasley go superstar on your ass.
Enter the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks destroyed Chicago in Atlanta the last time the teams matched up, but they were playing higher quality basketball then. They've struggled recently losing four of their last five including losses to Washington (though in fairness John Wall was back) and Cleveland. I'd like to think the Bulls will come out and show some fire to win this game, but they've struggled so badly at home that it's hard to put any expectations on Chicago at the United Center.
It raises the question, what the hell is wrong? Home court advantage typically means something fairly significant in the NBA, and the Bulls have dominated their home court in the past two seasons even in games where Rose was out. Obviously no Derrick affects how the Bulls perform overall, but it doesn't explain how they can be 10-5 on the road with two wins in NY and one in Miami and only 10-10 at home with losses to Charlotte and Phoenix.
Granted, the United Center lacks juice this season without Derrick, much more so than last year when Derrick was out, but the Bulls expected him back for the playoffs and were still fighting for the #1 seed. However, you'd still think that this team could put together a bit better showing than 10-10 and with a quality Hawks team coming in tonight, there's a serious chance they'll drop below .500 at home which is unacceptable even with Derrick out.
Win the interior battle
Horford + Smith vs Noah + Boozer.
The Bulls should win the interior battle where they have more size and strength, but it's not hard to see a scenario where the athleticism of Smith neutralizes the strength of Boozer while the strength of Horford neutralizes the play of Noah. The Bulls need to win the battle of the boards and points in the paint with these two matchups in order to pressure the Hawks.
Know your personnel
The Bulls allowed Kyle Korver to crush them from the three point line last time the two teams met which is completely inexcusable since they know exactly what Korver can do on offense. This time around, the Bulls need to look to keep a man on Korver rather than having a player ready to run out on him when it's already too late.
Chicago needs to be aware of where Korver and Morrow (questionable for the game) are in transition, when there are rebounds, and in the half court. They can't afford to give up three point shots because of inattentiveness to one dimensional (but great) shooters.
Abuse the Hawks perimeter defense
Kyle Korver's a better defender than given credit for, but there's no way he can stick Luol Deng. If the Hawks switch Korver onto someone else, then there's no one else who can stick Luol Deng in terms of perimeter defenders either. If they put Josh Smith on Deng, then Boozer or Noah should have a huge advantage.
No matter how you slice it, the Bulls should have one giant mismatch when Korver is on the court, and they should look to exploit that mismatch wherever it is as much as possible.
This would be a nice win for the Bulls to get. The Hawks are a quality team who destroyed the Bulls last match up. The Bulls can always use quality wins, revenge wins, and a confidence booster at home. They have the matchups they can take advantage of to win the game. Let's hope they go out and do it.
Also, my apologies on the lack of podcast this weekend, I have to admit, the final Wheel of Time book may have distracted me a bit from my normal podcasting time slot.