After getting drubbed by the Sacramento Kings on March 13, the Chicago Bulls could really use a win against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night. It's going to be a classic clash of offense vs. defense, and the Bulls will be hungry for a victory after suffering such a terrible blowout.
It helps that Chicago has already defeated Golden State once this season, on Jan. 25, but it's hard to ignore that the team has gone 0-4 on the West Coast this year. With a rowdy Oracle Arena crowd cheering on the Warriors, the Bulls could be in for a struggle.
This means that defense must be the name of the game from start to finish, something Chicago has done well all season long. However, keeping up on offense will be important too.
With a hot-scoring team like Golden State and Derrick Rose still out of the lineup, that's not going to be easy at all.
Thus, head coach Tom Thibodeau must have a balanced attack on both sides of the floor, with his defense hopefully winning out.
Time: Friday, March 15, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: WGN, WGN America, CSN Bay Area HD
Records: Chicago Bulls (35-29) vs. Golden State Warriors (37-29)
Injuries: Derrick Rose (knee, day-to-day), Rip Hamilton (back, day-to-day), Kirk Hinrich (foot, day-to-day), Taj Gibson (knee, out), Draymond Green (ankle, day-to-day), Brandon Rush (knee, out), via ESPN
Key Storyline: Bulls Seek to Shake Off Blowout Loss With Win in Oakland
The Bulls need a win against the Warriors after an embarrassing defeat to the lowly Sacramento Kings, and the odds could be in their favor after having beaten the Dubs in their first meeting.
Thanks to 25 points from Kirk Hinrich and double-doubles from Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah, the Bulls managed to pull off a 103-87 victory at the United Center.
On the Warriors' end, David Lee and Stephen Curry combined for 44 points and the hot-shooting team made just 21 percent of their threes.
But the scene and situation are different now. Hinrich may miss this game with a sore foot, and the Bulls are struggling to maintain pace in the Eastern Conference.
Moreover, Golden State is 22-9 at home, and the fact that Chicago has yet to win on the West Coast is a telling sign.
Unless the defense that ranks third in points allowed can be as strong as it was in Round 1, the Bulls are definitely in danger of suffering yet another bad loss late in the regular season.
Key Matchup: David Lee vs. Carlos Boozer
Though an offense-oriented team, the Warriors are actually one of the top rebounding teams in the league, ranking third to Chicago's seventh. That makes it all the more important for the Bulls to do their best to contain David Lee, who has continued to be a double-double machine for Golden State this year.
On the season, Lee is averaging 18.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the field. He has good size for the 4 at 6'9", 240 pounds, and also has a keen ability to provide offense in the paint as well as having a solid jump shot.
This means that Carlos Boozer is going to have to do his best to take Lee out of the game completely. He's a little bit bigger at 6'9", 266 pounds, but defense has never been his strongest suit. If he can do anything to force Lee out of his comfort zone, even just force some of his shots, that could be enough to swing the pendulum in Chicago's favor.
Boozer also needs to be a solid attacker on offense. He is averaging 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game on the season, and must be aggressive against the Warriors.
This means working the low post and incorporating his jumper, not to mention driving to the basket and drawing fouls when necessary. The former Blue Devil may not be the double-double lock he was with the Utah Jazz some years ago, but he needs to prove that he is worth the max contract Chicago is paying him.
That could start with a great game against Golden State, and a performance that helps the Bulls win.
X-Factor: Nate Robinson
Though his primary job with the team has been as a bench spark and scorer, Nate Robinson has seen some time at the point due to injuries to Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose. Overall, he has done a decent job, averaging 12.9 points and 5.7 assists in February and 12.8 points and 5.5 assists in March.
On the season, the former Washington Husky has averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 37 percent from long range. However, he's in a bit of a shooting slump.
Robinson has shot just 41 percent from the field this month and a mere 24 percent from long range. Against a high-scoring team like Golden State, that type of production is unacceptable.
This means that on top of being a solid distributor, Robinson must also be willing to drive the lane against Golden State and not rely so heavily on his jump shot, be it from mid-range or beyond the arc. The Bulls need him to be a spark as well as a playmaker.
If he can find the balance, then the Bulls have a definite shot at winning the game.
Otherwise, Chicago could very well remain winless on the West Coast.
Predicted Starting Lineups:
PG: Nate Robinson
SG: Marco Belinelli
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: David Lee
C: Andrew Bogut
The Bulls are going to be playing a little angry after getting destroyed by a lottery team in the Sacramento Kings, and that will translate to an excellent defensive performance in a victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Joakim Noah will run the table in the paint, with Carlos Boozer helping out as necessary, and both Luol Deng and Nate Robinson will sink key shots in the second half that will seal the deal for Chicago. Robinson will also have a solid passing night, almost constantly finding open teammates to whom he can dish the ball.
Golden State will see good performances from David Lee and Stephen Curry, but it won't be enough. The team's on-ball defense is still weak enough that slashers like Deng will be able to drive the lane with ease, leaving the Warriors as sitting ducks.
As a result, the Bulls will wrap up their road trip with a victory, and a good one at that.
Chicago Bulls 97, Golden State Warriors 89