The Chicago Bulls' 6 Most Important Games in March
March is here, and Chicago is excited as ever as the Bulls are tearing it up.
The Bulls have done a great job playing short-handed through injuries while logging many road miles.
For March, the Bulls only play 16 games, with 10 at the United Center.
Here are the six biggest games for Chicago this month.
March 4: Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers
There is something about those Philadelphia 76ers that trip the Chicago Bulls up.
During their last three meetings, the 76ers beat the Bulls 105-99, 97-85 and 98-82.
The Atlantic Division-leading 76ers (21-15) are ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference playoffs and could face the Bulls in the second round.
That's some cause for concern with Philly's three-game dominance of the Bulls, but the 76ers are tripping a bit by going 3-7.
Philly, under coach Doug Collins, plays defense just as well as the Bulls, allowing an NBA-best 87.1 points a game. Small forward Andre Iguodala (12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists) is a great on-ball and help defender who anchors the 76ers' defense.
Jrue Holiday (13.6 points, 4.4 assists) needs to be disrupted in the passing lanes if the Bulls want to slow down the 76ers offensively. Derrick Rose can guard Holiday well and Rip Hamilton provides length on defensive switch-offs.
The Bulls Bench Mob and a healthy Rose will be enough to exact revenge.
Prediction: Bulls 91, 76ers 86
March 5: Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls
A tough playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers has created quite a rivalry.
The Pacers (22-12) played very physical basketball against the Bulls, and Derrick Rose was ticked off with Indiana's celebrating an upset win at the United Center Jan. 25.
This is what he told ESPN Chicago following the 95-90 loss:
"I'll never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game," Rose told reporters. "I can't wait to play them again."
Indiana is a much-improved squad with the acquisitions of Paul George, George Hill and David West. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert (13.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks) has emerged this year as an elite center on both ends of the court.
This improved Indiana roster has the No. 3 playoff seed right now and could possibly face the Bulls in the second round.
Still, point guard Darren Collison has no chance against Rose and Carlos Boozer should have a strong offensive showing, as West is a poor post defender.
Chalk this up as a sure win for Chicago.
Prediction: Bulls 100, Pacers 93
March 7: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls
That's what makes this matchup big, as the Magic are competitive with Howard manning the paint.
Howard, who is averaging 19.9 points and 15.2 rebounds a game, has a strong post presence and utilizes his body to deter Derrick Rose's effective driving.
Besides Howard, power forward Ryan Anderson is playing really well (22.3 player efficiency rating) with 16.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. The other Magic teammates are not doing much.
D12 is always a danger, but the Bulls proved they could beat Howard and the Magic even if he could drop 40 points.
Bulls win this one.
Prediction: Bulls 102, Magic 93
March 12: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls
Everybody loves point guard Jeremy Lin, but he and the New York Knicks will not get a warm welcome when they face the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
Lin (14.6 points, 6.1 assists) has brought new life to the struggling New York Knicks, improving the team's offense and getting them back into the playoff hunt and another possible playoff opponent for Chicago.
However, Lin will receive a rude wake-up call from Derrick Rose, as Rose is a solid defender who also is a defensive assignment.
Forwards Carmelo Anthony (21.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists) and Amar'e Stoudemire (17.4 points, 7.9 rebounds) are back with the Knicks after injuries and personal issues kept them off the court. But both stars have struggled this year and Bulls Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have improved their play off late.
Knicks new shooting guard J.R. Smith will actually provide some excitement off the bench, but the Bulls' Bench Mob has this one covered with Ronnie Brewer's length (6'7") and defensive fundamentally sound play.
Chalk up another Bulls' win.
Prediction: Bulls 111, Knicks 108
March 14: Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls
King James (27.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists) destroyed the Bulls' defense in Jan. 29's 97-93 victory and might do it again. Luol Deng does provide a tougher defensive matchup for James over Ronnie Brewer, but James is having one of the best NBA seasons ever with a league-high 33.0 player efficiency rating.
Dwyane Wade (22.8 points, 5.0 assists) and Chris Bosh (18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds) are playing solid basketball as usual, while the Heat's bench of Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier are playing well as a unit.
Deng is healthy and should provide an offensive boost, but Miami has the Bulls' number and will win its sixth straight in this intense rivalry.
Prediction: Heat 96, Bulls 89
March 26: Denver Nuggets at Chicago Bulls
Another challenging opponent for the Chicago Bulls is the Denver Nuggets.
While the Nuggets lost Carmelo Anthony in a trade to the New York Knicks, Denver has been able to rebuild with Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and ultimately Andre Miller (from the Raymond Felton trade).
Small forward Gallinari (17.0 points, 5.2 rebounds) has a sprained left ankle and a chip fracture in his foot, which might keep him out against the Bulls. Center Nene (13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.17 steals) is out with a calf injury and would be slowed down when he returns.
Point guard Ty Lawson (15.5 points, 6.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds) is having a breakthrough year, but he is no match for Derrick Rose.
The Nuggets are one heck of a team, but they look like children compared to a deeper and more talented Bulls' squad.
Prediction: Bulls 103, Nuggets 90