The Chicago Bulls face off against the once-rival Detroit Pistons for the second time this year, hoping to improve on a week that saw them win four of their last five games. Now, normally wins over the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers would be a truly impressive eight-day stretch, even without accounting for a win against the better-than-people-think Toronto Raptors and a tough overtime loss without Luol Deng against the Memphis Grizzlies. However, with Atlanta cratering of late and Boston and LA struggling all year, that's not so much the case right now. But four out of five is still nothing to sneeze at, especially with Deng out for two of those and part of a third.
Speaking of Deng, he is expected to miss his third straight game with a hamstring injury, which means Jimmy Butler will start (and play at least 40 minutes) in his place. Butler has been excellent filling in for Deng, but it's obvious that the offense misses Deng's presence.
The last time these two teams saw each other, Joakim Noah put up 30 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks as the Bulls eked out a 108-104 win in Detroit. Meanwhile, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey ran wild — Kirk Hinrich defense! — to keep the Pistons close, but a lack of frontcourt production ultimately doomed them. To that end, the Bulls should hope Lawrence Frank continues to keep Andre Drummond on a short leash, despite his production.
Key Matchup: Joakim Noah v. Greg Monroe
Both players are excellent passers and rebounders and serve as hubs for their team's offense. The one who performs better will likely determine the outcome of the game.
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