In February, the Chicago Bulls will be traveling all around the country, with nine of their 13 games coming on the road against some tough opponents. Notable matchups include visits to Brooklyn, Denver and Oklahoma City.
Chicago had a very strong start to the new year, winning 12 of their 16 games in January, including victories over heavyweights like the Heat and Knicks, and against a heavily talented—but struggling—Lakers team.
With a 13-6 road record, the Bulls should have no problem being the visiting squad for a majority of the month. If they can succeed, they can set themselves up for a great finish to the season.
The Bulls defense was able to hold the Nets to just 82 points in their first matchup, and the Bulls came up big in the fourth quarter to win a very close game. This one probably won't be any different.
Both teams come in with top-five scoring defenses, but the Bulls get the edge here as they hold opponents to fewer points and to just 42 percent shooting
This game will come down to perimeter defense for the Bulls. If they can make Joe Johnson and Deron Williams have poor shooting nights like in their previous matchup, the Bulls should be able to come out with a win.
With defenders like Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler, this task should be no problem.
Offensively, Chicago needs to feed Carlos Boozer inside early and often. Over his last five games, Boozer has averaged just 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, both significant drops in his averages for the month of January.
Still, the Bulls should be able to complete their patented three-game winning streak with a 90-86 victory.
The Hawks struggled in January, dropping nine games, including losses to lowly teams like the Pistons, Cavaliers and Wizards. They also suffered a huge loss with the season-ending injury to Lou Williams.
The Hawks probably won't shoot under 30 percent again, but the Bulls defense has been great this year. If they can keep Josh Smith outside of the paint, they can frustrate him early and take him out of the game.
The key to this game will be the rebounding battle, however. The Hawks have two great rebounders in Smith and Al Horford.
Chicago won the rebounding battle 59-39 in their last matchup; if they can capitalize on second-chance opportunities and limit Atlanta's, the Bulls should come out on top.
The Bulls get their first four-game winning streak of the season with an 87-83 win.
After a snow storm postponed their Dec. 26 game, the Bulls and Pacers have yet to face each other since Dec. 4. That game ended with a very controversial no-call when Deng drove to the basket and drew a lot of contact.
This rematch will be very important as both teams are fighting for the Central Division lead, where the Bulls are just 1.5 games ahead of the Pacers.
There aren't many teams that can rebound with the Bulls, but Indiana is one of them. The Pacers are tied for first place in rebounding, while the Bulls are tied for fifth.
This matchup will essentially be a mirror match. Both teams excel in defense and rebounding and neither have a very explosive offense. The difference in this game will be Paul George, who lit up the Bulls for 34 points on 14-for-25 shooting last time around.
Another close game, but the Bulls' winning streak ends here.
Bulls lose 85-80.
This will be a classic battle between a high-scoring offense going against a stifling defense. The Bulls have to do one thing in this game: make Denver play in the half-court. Denver likes to play fast, averaging just under 95 possessions per 48 minutes (third in the NBA).
Rebounding will also be key for Chicago as Denver is the NBA's leading rebounding team, and have a great offensive rebounder in Kenneth Faried.
The Bulls will have to try to exploit the Nuggets defense, as they are one of just eight teams that allow 100 or more points. However, with the lack of offensive threats for Chicago, it could be difficult for them to do so.
The Nuggets have lost only three home games, so it's hard to envision to Bulls coming away with this one.
Bulls lose 97-88.
Another new opponent for Chicago this season. The biggest threat for the Bulls here will be Utah's frontcourt. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap could create a lot of problems for the Bulls if they get going early.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, that's where the scoring will stop for them.
The Bulls should be more than capable of handling the rest of their players defensively as the Jazz don't have a big perimeter threat.
Luol Deng could have a big game, as well as Kirk Hinrich since Jamaal Tinsley isn't exactly a great defender. Add in some good interior passing and ball movement, and the Bulls could be in for a big win.
Bulls win 94-83.
The Spurs are great on both ends of the floor, boasting a top-three offense and a top-10 defense.
For the Bulls to win this game, they have to contain Tony Parker and make sure the Spurs' pick-and-roll doesn't kill them, something the Bulls have struggled with this season.
On the offensive side, they have to exploit the Boozer/Diaw matchup as Boozer has a good size advantage over him.
The Noah/Duncan matchup will be the key to this game. If Noah can keep him from getting good post position or beating him in the pick-and-roll, the Bulls have a good shot at winning this one. Harder said than done, however, as Duncan is a very crafty scorer.
It will surely be a chess match between Tom Thibodeau and Gregg Popovich as they try to get matchup advantages all game long. It should come to no surprise, either, as they are two of the league's best coaches.
Tony Parker and the pick-and-roll will prove to be a little too much for the Bulls, though.
Bulls lose 99-91.
This one is an easy pick. Rajon Rondo was the most consistent player in the games between these two teams. Now that he's out for the season, Paul Pierce will have to take on the scoring load against this tough Bulls defense.
Deng and Butler should be able to make it tough on Pierce, while Noah will make Kevin Garnett work for any basket he wants.
Without Rondo, there's a very small chance the Celts can pull this one off.
Bulls win 101-85.
The Hornets were able to upset the Bulls earlier this year without two of their best players. This time around, both Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon will be in their starting lineup as they host the Bulls.
The Bulls' main focus on defense should be Gordon. He's the Hornets' primary scorer, and if they can make him struggle, the Hornets could have a tough time getting points anywhere else.
Hinrich will also have to do a good job against Greivis Vasquez, as he is capable of getting his teammates good shots.
Still, the Hornets aren't a very good team. They don't score a lot of points and they don't get much production off their bench. The Bulls have been known to play down to the level of their opponents, however, so a loss can't be completely ruled out.
The Bulls should be able to win the rebounding battle with their size advantage, with their offensive rebounding being the reason they pick up a good lead.
Bulls win 92-79.
How great would it be if Derrick Rose made his season debut in this game? His return would have the crowd going wild for all 48 minutes, and it would definitely help against a team that's not only a rival, but really tough to take out of a game.
However, this isn't the game to have Rose shake off the rust, so we'll leave that for later.
The Bulls had a lot of success in their last meeting against the Heat due to their rebounding (48 total rebounds, 19 offensive), and that's how they'll have to win this one.
The key matchups here are Butler and Deng's defense on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Now that Butler is getting more minutes, he will be able to defend Wade for longer stretches, giving the Heat more trouble on the perimeter.
LeBron and Wade will still get their points, along with Chris Bosh, but there aren't many other threats. The Bulls do a great job of closing out on the three-point line, and they showed it in their last meeting forcing the Heat to just 5-for-20 shooting from deep.
The Heat's weakness remains on the boards, and the Bulls will have a clear advantage there.
Bulls win another close one 93-89.
After a big upset by the Bobcats on New Year's Eve and a rematch won by the Bulls on Jan. 28, these two squads will look to take the season series after this matchup. It should be safe to say that the Bulls will walk away with the win.
Charlotte has actually played really well against Chicago, and after the last two games, it wouldn't be crazy to put this game on upset alert. The Bulls still have the advantage in just about every position, however.
As long as they lock down defensively and rebound at a high rate, they shouldn't be worried.
Expect another big game from Noah as he'll look to take advantage on the boards again.
Bulls win 98-89.
In the Bulls' last meeting with the Thunder, Kevin Durant took over in the fourth quarter and was able to put the game away. With OKC being one of the best home teams in the NBA, it could be difficult for the Bulls to come away with a win.
Durant will be a tough matchup. Deng was able to do a good job on him for a large portion of the game last time, but it will be hard to keep one of the league's best scorers at bay again.
The one thing the Bulls have to do is frustrate Russell Westbrook early in the game. Westbrook can be a player who will put up shots to try to get back into rhythm, so Hinrich will definitely have to lock him down.
The Bulls have to try and establish a post presence early. The Thunder allow 40 points in the paint per game, and with the Bulls' great interior passing, it's something that they could exploit.
OKC is a tough team to beat at home. The crowd will keep them energized and Durant will look to get going early this time.
Bulls lose 103-92.
The Bulls return home for the last two games of the month, and they will look to sweep the season series against their divisional foe. Chicago has beaten Cleveland in a pretty decisive manner in all the previous meetings, and this one could be a repeat performance.
This is when Derrick Rose makes his return. They'll be playing at home and against a weak opponent, so it will be a good way to get Rose started.
Don't expect a huge performance from him, though. A 25-28 minute game is what should be expected as Thibodeau definitely won't want to overwork him in his first few games.
As for the rest of the team, another 20-point, 10-rebound game from Boozer and a 15-plus rebound night for Noah should get the job done. Their size advantage will be on display yet again.
Bulls win 104-91.
The Bulls close out February by hosting the 76ers. The Bulls were without Hinrich and Hamilton last time they faced off, so that could make a difference as Chicago would now have Captain Kirk guarding Jrue Holiday when Rose takes a break.
The last time Rose faced the Sixers, he found himself clutching his knee after an awkward landing forced him to miss a considerable amount of time.
While it wasn't Philly's fault that he got hurt, he could still be seeking revenge for his team's early exit from the playoffs a year ago.
Rose gets his first 20-point game of the season while playing just 25-30 minutes.
Chicago will have to make sure Holiday doesn't take over this game, however. He scored 26 points in their last outing, but with Rose and Hinrich on him, he could have a tougher time. Still, he is more than capable of scoring 30 on any given night.
The Sixers also had a lot of success inside the paint, outscoring the Bulls 44-32 in their last meeting; interior defense will have to be a priority coming in.
The Bulls will have to work hard on the boards and make the most out of every opportunity on offense. The Sixers aren't a high turnover team (just 12.8 per game), so offensive possessions might be the only shot the Bulls get at scoring some points.
Bulls win 95-90 and finish February with a 9-4 record.