Fresh off another a big western conference win, the Chicago Bulls will host the best team in the East, the Toronto Raptors. It appears they'll get to do so at near full health as Rose, Noah, and Gibson are all listed as probable with only McDermott scheduled to miss a game. Let's hope no one trips over a bag on the way to the UC.
What happens with the big man rotation?
The #1 question for Chicago Bulls fans will of course be what happens with the rotations. Nikola Mirotic has been a bad ass while getting big minutes per game. He's likely considered 4th in line of the bigs with everyone healthy though.
His shooting is a big boon for the Bulls though, and Tom Thibodeau needs to find a way to keep his minutes up. With 96 total minutes to split between four guys we come up to 24 minutes per player. That's really not enough for everyone which means one guy is going to get squeezed for sure.
If, as I suspect, Noah and Gibson aren't at full health, then keeping their minutes lower would be a good idea. Pau Gasol should always have his minutes down around 32 unless its an emergency, but no matter how you slice it, there's no easy way to get all four guys on the court.
My main hope isn't that Mirotic plays 20 minutes, I think without injury there is very little chance of that, but what I would like to see is him play the majority of his minutes with Noah whom I feel he complements the best on the court.
Can we please squeeze Hinrich instead of Brooks?
With Derrick Rose back one of the Bulls guards is going to get a big dip in playing time. Rose should step right back in to 30+ minutes a night. It'd be really great to see the Bulls take many of those minutes from Kirk Hinrich instead of Aaron Brooks.
Brooks has been a bad ass scorer for Chicago. Kirk has been, well, Kirk. While Brooks has chipped in efficient scoring for Chicago, Hinrich's shooting percentages have been abysmal. His defense, while marginally better than Brooks, hasn't been particularly special, and he's made some spectacularly stupid decisions this season.
Rose and Brooks have also looked really good next to each other in the few times we've seen it, so I'd like to see more of that look. It doesn't mean Hinrich should play five minutes and Brooks should play 28, but it shouldn't be Hinrich 28 and Brooks five either.
Look for some intensity
While I'm sure some of those good Western Conference teams take the Bulls seriously, there's no huge rivalry between the Bulls and Grizzlies, Blazers, Mavs, or Warriors. Both teams want to win and test themselves, but ultimately neither team is directly competing for their playoff position with the other.
The Raptors are a young team, on top of the east, whom most media still don't take too seriously as a threat to get out of the East. Most media still figures Chicago and Cleveland will rise to the top. The Bulls also beat the Raptors in Toronto earlier this season.
Toronto is fighting for more than just the win, they're fighting for league respect as well. I expect them to come out with a bigger chip on their shoulder than anyone the Bulls have faced this season which should make for an entertaining and hard fought game.
With that said, the Bulls better be prepared for the early onslaught. Derrick Rose better find real Derrick Rose and not passive Derrick Rose. If the Bulls have one of their oh so typical slow starts to the game I think they'll find themselves in a deep hole fast, and it won't be easy to get out of it.
The keys are simple
Run their three point shooters off the three point line, particularly Ross and Patterson whom aren't likely to beat you off the dribble anwyay, and to a lesser extent Lou Williams and Kyle Lowry. Without DeRozan, the dribble attack is going to come primarily from one direction, Kyle Lowry, so the Bulls need to control him.
If Chicago can do those two things and force the Raptors to win with something other than hot three point shooting from Ross/Patterson and Lowry's drives, then they should find themselves in good position to win the game.
Chicago's been lousy at home so far this season, so it'd be nice to score a big win against a quality team tonight.
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