The last time these two met, the Bulls turned in one of the worst efforts on the year, and lost by 25 in a game that not only gave Charlotte their first win on the year, but was one the Bulls were supposed to dominate in.
Tonight, it's in the UC and the Bulls are smelling blood. As they should be. This is one of those games where it'd be disappointing if the Bulls don't lead from wire to wire, but that obvious statement is exactly the cause of my hesitance. The Hornets, for some bloody reason, have the Bulls figured out way too often, or at the least get fired up to play their boss' former team. So yeah, I expect another dog fight unless the following happens:
- Jimmy Butler goes nuts. Frankly, he's due. With a total of 18 points scored over the last two games, the Bulls will need the All-Star version tonight as to not finding themselves being outworked and outhustled again.
- The Bulls actually give a damn in rebounding the ball. Even without Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia were just -6 on the glass against the Bulls on Monday. The notoriously poor rebounder, Jahlil Okafor, grabbed 15 of those bad boys, which once again suggests these Bulls are having issues in being physical.
- Doug McDermott backs up his shooting with something resembling defense. It's almost comical how well he's doing offensively as a shooter, and how poorly he is on the other end. It's been a while since I've seen someone with such a gap in production or effect depending on which site of the court he is. Last one? Rookie Carmelo Anthony.
It'd also be a pretty big lift if Nikola Mirotic proves that his slump is now a distant memory, and can build on the 20-point performance he had in Philadelphia. Niko is quietly having a pretty bad year after his hot start, as his TO% has increased by 7.5%, his AST% decreased by 5%, his BLK% by 1.4%, and his TRB% by 1.3%. He's quite simply producing less in both his big man, and perimeter responsibilities. And this needs correcting.
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