It’s the Bulls vs. Blazers and we’re not talking about a SEGA Genesis game. Had to do it. This is Portland’s second game of a 4-game homestand against opposition they should defeat in the Rose Garden. As Coup talked about below, this weekend was a bit of an odd one. I chalked up the loss in Golden State to another one of those weird nights at Oracle Arena. Also, 23 turnovers against a team who is just begging for an excuse to run is a recipe for disaster. And then how many more times can we pound Minnesota before we start feeling bad? I mean it’s not even funny anymore.
Oh, I guess I forgot to mention how Portland went from a team relying on spacing last year to all of a sudden ditching that and wanting ball movement this year to going back to being a team that needs spacing. Nice.
Chicago comes into tonight’s contest at an uneven 6-6. They may be the definition of a .500 team right now but they are hard to get a read on. One of their main struggles is an inability to win games on the road. They are 2-5 away from the United Center, granted one of them was at Cleveland, but Chicago still struggles on the road. They have three bright spots to hang their hat on. The first is a man by the name of Derrick Rose. A man who absolutely scares the heck out of me and I don’t know why. Oh yeah, because Steve Blake is going to have to ‘guard’ him for extended periods of this game. Rose’s stats may look pedestrian (15.2 PPG, 5.3 AST) but he’s been hampered by an ankle injury that he’s played through. And if you look at the numbers he’s put up the past two games (20 and 6 in LA, 28 in Denver) you might think that he’s over that ankle injury. As good as Rose is and as good as he can be, he needs help if the Bulls are to win. And help usually comes in the form of Coup’s other boy Luol Deng. Seriously, between his man crushes on Deng and Martell Webster, Coup’s head might explode tonight. Back to Deng who is back to putting up the scoring numbers we remember him for (16.8 a game) has also added rebounding to his repertoire, averaging a career high 8.5 boards a game. The third bright spot is Joakim Noah. I say this now, and I guarantee I will regret it, but NBA Joakim Noah doesn’t bother me as much as College Joakim Noah did. I can’t really explain that one either. Maybe it’s because he averages 12 and 12, I guess you can’t really hate on the leading rebounder in the NBA. He is going to challenge the Blazers on the boards in a big way.
The X-Factors for Chicago tonight are going to be John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich. Salmons is shooting a near career high FGA’s (13.8 a game) but a career low in field goal percentage (34.5%), free throw percentage (71%) and a near career low in three point percentage (31%). For Chicago to have a chance to win they need a big night from Salmons. And despite his struggles 1) we know he can score in bunches and 2) we know he’s going to get the FGA’s. Hinrich is having the worst year of his career, something I would like to remind every single Blazer fan who wanted him so so so badly over the past few months. Career lows in field goal percentage (36%), three point percentage (31.6%), free throw percentage (68% to put that in perspective Noah shoots 65%) and points per game (9.1). It’s hard to measure if Hinrich’s scoring is as important. They’re 2-2 when he scores in double figures and 4-4 when he doesn’t.
Keys to the game
- No third scoring option. Rose is going to score, Deng is likely to score. Can’t let the Bulls get a third guy going, especially not a third perimeter guy. Aka not Salmons or Hinrich.
- Battle of the boards. You know Noah, Deng, Gibson and Brad Miller are going to the boards. The Bulls are the 5th best rebounding team in the NBA. Allowing them to be beasts inside is a recipe for disaster.
- Chill with the turnovers. The Minny game was more like it. 9 TO’s from Portland is going to make this team super tough. Last year that was the hall mark of this team, need to get back to that.