Game Info: 5:00 PM, United Center, Chicago, IL. TV: CSN and NBA TV. Radio: 95.5 FM (KXTG).
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Brandon Roy (#7, 6′6″, Washington), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′8″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)
Projected Chicago Starting Lineup: PG Derrick Rose (#1, 6’3″, Memphis), SG Keith Bogans (#6, 6’5″, Kentucky), SF Luol Deng (#9, 6’9″, Duke), PF Taj Gibson (#22, 6’9″, USC), C Joakim Noah (#13, 6’11″, Florida)
The Blazers continue their four-game road trip tonight with a visit to Chicago to take on the retooled Bulls, a game that figures to be their most challenging so far of the new season. Their most noticeable weakness from Saturday’s 100-95 nail-biter of a win over the Knicks, rebounding, will be put to the test tonight in a big way. The Bulls’ Joakim Noah is fast becoming one of the league’s top rebounding and shot-blocking centers, and even a big man as consistent as Marcus Camby will have his work cut out for him.
Tonight’s game will also mark the first time this season that the Blazers will have to account for a truly top-tier perimeter player. Derrick Rose was spectacular Saturday against the Pistons–39 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks–and is by all indications poised to make the leap this season from quasi-superstar to the real thing, much as Brandon Roy did in 2008-09. An educated guess would have the Blazers pairing Nicolas Batum with Rose. Batum had success guarding Steve Nash in the season opener, and has been enjoying the best defensive season of his career. With that said, he hasn’t had to guard a player as explosive as Rose yet, so look for tonight to be a test of the Frenchman’s ability to guard the league’s top scorers.
The Bulls are, of course, playing without this summer’s marquee free-agent acquisition, Carlos Boozer, which will hurt them inside, but second-year forward Taj Gibson has been solid filling in. If the Blazers are unable to control the offensive glass, as they were in the Knicks game, this game could get out of hand early. Camby simply cannot afford to get into foul trouble early, as he did against the Knicks. We have yet to see a Noah-Fabricio Oberto battle in the paint, and it would probably benefit the Blazers greatly to keep it that way. He’s played well in spot minutes so far, but matching him up with Joakim Noah won’t be pretty.
If Portland can keep up with Chicago in rebounding and (at least somewhat) limit Rose’s effectiveness, they should be able to handle the rest of Chicago’s rotation. Luol Deng has shot atrociously this year, and starting shooting guard Keith Bogans is known more for his defense than his scoring ability. Rose’s 39 points on Saturday came on 13 of 27 shooting, so if the Blazers can force him to take bad shots (which can be done if Batum and Wesley Matthews do their jobs), they will be able to stay in the game.
So far in the 2010-11 regular season, the Blazers have gotten by essentially by starting and finishing games well. That will not be enough tonight. Slack off at all on defense and Rose will very likely go off, just as he did against the Pistons. Give Noah and Gibson any kind of rebounding advantage, and they will punish you. Keep these players at least sort-of in check and they should at least have a chance to win.