Many of us still remember our last match-up with the Bulls (besides me), a thrilling triple-overtime 131-128 victory. However, it's probably not worth rehashing considering 4 players from that gem (3 from our side -- boo hoo) are sadly out.
Since Derrick Rose went down, Chicago is 17-17, but more importantly, they've righted their ship as they've gone 14-6 in their last 20 games. This, despite shipping off former All-Star Luol Deng to Cleveland close to a month ago. So how are they doing it?
Typical Tom Thibodeau Defense!
They are second in the league (behind the Pacers) in both points allowed and defensive efficiency. They hold opponents to a 43.2 FG% (3rd best) and won't put you on the free throw line (19.8 attempts - 3rd best). So, although they are one of the worst offensive teams, they are able to give themselves a chance to win every night due to their impregnable defense.
Three keys to the game:
- Get out in transition. A team that values every possession doesn't like to run (3rd to last in fastbreak points per game). Consequently, you need to push it more than usual. Don't let them get into their comfort zone and allow them to play a grind-it-out half court game. In other words, no Monty-ball.
- Control D.J. Augustin. Since Deng's departure, he's been their best offensive weapon: 17.2 PPG, 2.9 3PTM, 6.1 AST and 1.0 TOV. (Seriously, what a fantastic pick-up by Chicago yet he rarely gets any acclaim.)
- Harass Joakim Noah. The Bulls center is averaging 14.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists since, you guessed it, Luol Deng left. The Pelicans can't allow him to be such a huge factor in the game, dictating on both ends of the floor. Might not be a bad idea to have Anthony Davis have his fair share on keeping Noah off the boards and forcing several turnovers.