Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? However, the Bulls haven't been lacking from offensive execution recently. They've lacked defensive execution. A sign that they simply aren't playing with the focus and determination that we've come to expect from the team.
In other words, the mental hump has hurt them as much as the talent loss. The Miami Heat will out-talent the Bulls by a million tonight, but Chicago has fought the Heat particularly well despite that talent gap at times.
They've effectively defeated the Heat three times in the past two seasons without Derrick Rose including the 33 game streak ender which the Heat desperately wanted to win.
Odds are this gets ugly. Now, I've said that before each of those other Bulls wins without Rose, but the Bulls don't have a Nate Robinson or John Lucas to generate points for them this time. They're entirely down to systematic offense, and the Heat can dismantle system offenses.
Without anyone to create something out of nothing and get hot against Miami, it will be extraordinarily difficult to get much done at all. On top of that, the Bulls are still missing Jimmy Butler, their best hope to defend LeBron. Luol Deng always does a solid job of forcing tough shots for LeBron, but LeBron [i]always[/i] scores through Deng's defense anyway.
It's like he sees Luol Deng and his shooting percentage goes up 10% despite the tough defense.
Beyond that, the Heat are coming off a loss, so any potential lapse in focus will likely be gone. Given I'm openly rooting for the lottery, Miami coming to town is a pretty good deal. Can we schedule another 20 games against the Heat this season?
Things to watch
I'm excited to see Tony Snell in this game. I want to see how he defends Wade [assuming he plays] and LeBron. I assume he'll get a shot at both. Snell's played better lately and has shot the ball pretty well.
However, we also thought he'd become a plus defender in the NBA. Here's a good chance to see the early returns. Back in Butler's rookie season when he wasn't doing anything on offense, he still made his name with his defense on Carmelo Anthony. I think Snell has a chance to do something similar against the Heat.
Marquis Teague is almost out of rope. The tank commander might be facing his last chance to ever do something with the Chicago Bulls. After Mike James is back, Teague will likely be sent down to the D-League again, so he knows he's got to make something positive happen in the next week or two to prove to the Bulls brass they should keep him around.
Doesn't seem all that hopeful given how over-matched Teague has looked so far, but despite him being fairly lousy, I don't think he's -7 PER lousy. I expect Teague to start to come around a bit. Enough to convince management to keep him around? Probably not.
What will Joakim Noah do? The dude hates Miami with a passion. I just expect something interesting from Jo tonight.
Could be tough to watch
Though I'm rooting for losses, I still like to see the team play reasonably well and avoid blowouts. That doesn't look likely tonight. I suspect this one will be painful.