The four-game homestand continues today as the Chicago Bulls will face off against the New Jersey Nets.
The Nets started the season 2-0, but it has gone downhill from there. Statistically, they are in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories.
Frankly, I don't know how the Nets are 9-23 this season; they have too much talent to be 14 games under .500; with players like Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Anthony Morrow, and Travis Outlaw
The Bulls have a tendency to get complacent early in games; the Nets, like other bottom-feeders, tend to play better as front-runners.
Let's take a look at the keys for the Bulls to get past the Nets:
Keys to the game:
Derrick Rose vs Devin Harris
Two seasons ago, a Devin Harris-Derrick Rose matchup would be one that
many folks would pay to watch. Both were (and still are) very quick, athletic, and
excellent finishers. However, things have drastically changed since
Rose has elevated his game into a 20+ point per game Point Guard, while dishing out
over 8 assists per game, and has rebounded well for a guard. Harris,
meanwhile, has dealt with numerous hamstring and ankle injuries since
then and hasn't regained his All-Star form.
The Nets go as Harris goes: they are 7-4 when he scores 20+ points. Harris has pretty ridiculous win/loss splits, when the Nets win, he averages 21.9 PPG, and when the Nets lose, he scores just 15.1 PPG.
Rose's defense has definitely improved this season, and he'll need to play both ends of the court today. Regardless of the downgrade in Harris' play recently, the Bulls and Rose will have to prepare for him as they do for every other top-tier PG.
This game will be decided by the PG's. There's a good chance that the PG that performs the best will be on the winning end.
Know who's a shooter and who isn't
The Nets shoot a little over 15 three-pointers per game, however, the bulk of the three's are taken by Morrow, Outlaw, Jordan Farmar, and newcomer Sasha Vucacic.
The Bulls are in the top-10 in three-point defense, and I think it should be credited to Tom Thibodeau's preperation. But there's always games where the Bulls' defense has their hiccups when it comes to the three-point line. For example, they allowed 16 three-pointers to the NY Knicks the first time the two teams faced off, and then allowed 12 the next game against the Knicks.
With Kurt Thomas matched up with Brook Lopez, I think the Nets will get several three-point attempts tomorrow. The Bulls will come with a quick double-team and that will leave shooters open outside. But if the Bulls rotate on defense, getting out to the players who like to shoot the three's, then they'll be just fine.
Go to Carlos Boozer early and often
Who can guard Carlos Boozer on the Nets? Kris Humphries? Rookie Derrick Favors? Yuck.
Boozer should definitely tear -- as he's done with several teams this season -- the Nets apart today. I wouldn't be surprised if another 30-point, 10-rebound game is brewing. He's going to have a field day against the weak Power Forward position the Nets have.
Boozer certainly has his issues with long, athletic players -- something that has bothered him over the years in the Western Conference -- but against smaller PF's such as Humphries, he will have his eyes very wide open and will feast on this matchup.
It's imperative for the Bulls to go to their 20-and-10 machine early and often.
Don't play down to competition
The Bulls should win this game with ease. Maybe not a 20-point blowout, but like the game against the Bucks, I shouldn't get a worried feeling that the Nets will pull off an upset against the 20-10 Bulls.
Last season, as most die-hard Bulls fans remember, the Bulls got upset by the Nets 103-101 on December 8th, 2009-- yes December 8th-- giving the Nets their first road win of the reason.
I have noticed the Bulls have a knack of playing down to their competition early in games, but they eventually turn up the heat in the second half. With a back-to-back against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, it would be nice to see the Bulls come out with a sense of urgency to beat down the Nets early and not give them hope of coming back.
This is yet another game the Bulls should win by a reasonable margin. The Nets simply aren't good right now, and it would definitely be disappointing if the Bulls would lose to this 9-23 team at home.
I especially can't wait to see the Rose-Harris matchup, along with how bad Boozer roughs up the Nets forwards.
I was suppose to go to today's game, but things just didn't work out. So I'm a bit bummed out about that, but it's still fun to watch them on TV. Hopefully Stacey King, whose mom died recently, will be ready to go for today's game; I certainly miss him. But I don't blame him if he's spending more time with his family, definitely not. Pray for Stacey and his family.