Based on what we've seen so far this season, we can reasonably expect one of two things from the Chicago Bulls tonight as they take on the Golden State Warriors.
1. They will, having put together a very solid stretch of 6 wins in 7 games, proceed to roll over and play dead as they get stomped by a good team, which the Warriors are.
2. They will come out with intensity and fight the Warriors tooth and nail to the very end, possibly even blowing them out, because the Bulls enjoy doing things that make no sense.
Now, there's really a third option, which we saw on Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies, where the Bulls come out flat and look terrible for most of the game before fighting back down the stretch and taking them to OT. Technically, Wednesday's win over the Detroit Pistons would also qualify, but it's probably best if we try to forget that game ever happened.
The Warriors present a couple of challenges for the Bulls. First, they have the size to negate the Bulls' rebounding edge, at least to some extent. David Lee is an all-star and Carl Landry has been extremely productive off the bench for them. Second, they're very good defensively, which is a problem for the offensively-challenged Bulls. Third, they have quick guards who can get into the lane and can also shoot the ball efficiently. Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson are a formidable perimeter trio offensively, and the Bulls could struggle to defend all of them simultaneously. Last, and perhaps most importantly, is their bench. Golden State's bench is one of the best in the league, led by Jack and Landry, even with Brandon Rush out for the year with an ACL tear.
That's going to be the true test. With Luol Deng out yet again with his hamstring injury and Jimmy Butler in his place as a starter, the Bulls really only have three guys they can turn to off the bench: Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson. Daequan Cook and Nazr Mohammed also exist, but it's not like they've been very good. Tom Thibodeau generally compensates by leaving Jimmy and Noah on the floor with those three, but there's every chance that the Bulls bench will get run off the floor by the Warriors bench tonight.
Key Matchup: Joakim Noah v. David Lee
Two of the best passing big men in the league and a pair of all-stars go at it tonight in Noah and Lee. Lee's technically a power forward, but Noah figures to start out guarding him rather than letting Carlos Boozer get annihilated by him inside, while there's a chance that Mark Jackson will opt to start Lee out on Noah rather than have him try to guard Boozer inside. (In case you can't tell, neither Boozer nor Lee has any real ability to guard the other. Both are atrocious defensively.) If Noah can limit Lee and make him pay on the offensive end, that will take a lot of the pressure off the Bulls' perimeter players.Tags: Carlos Boozer, Chicago, Chicago Bulls, David Lee, Golden State Warriors, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Mark Jackson, NBA, Stephen Curry, Tom Thibodeau