After the late-game heroics of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng against the Lakers last night, the Warriors game is one that should be considered a must-win. Not just for the sake of standings, but for the sake of overall team confidence.
The Bulls started the Lakers' game slow and sluggish after the tip-off by missing wide-open jump-shots and getting into early foul trouble. This resulted in Tom Thibodeau benching his starters in favor of the reserves just a few minutes into the first quarter.
As the Bench Mob have done in the past, they kept the game close and took a two-point lead to the end of the quarter. After the starters came back in, they dominated the remainder of the half.
Then the ugly third quarter happened.
The Bulls struggled, hitting only 6-16 of their shots and committed some terrible turnovers. It was a quarter that proved to anyone who had doubts that the Bulls would not suffer from the lockout that shortened the season and training camps.
The sluggishness continued going into the fourth quarter with the Lakers' lead getting as big as 11 with slightly more than three minutes to go.
Then Rose and Deng took over with well-timed scoring and stifling defense that galvanized a furious run to win.
Consider the sequence in the last 20.4 seconds—Deng's stolen pass, Rose's eventual game-clinching shot, Deng's blocked shot.
Game over; drive home safely.
That is a wonderful way to start the season but Chicago cannot afford to come out flat against Golden State. Coming off a 105-86 loss to the LA Clippers, the Warriors will come out stronger when facing the Bulls.
Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah must stay out of foul trouble.
Hamilton couldn't get into an offensive rhythm once he picked up his second foul early. Golden State's guard trio of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, and rookie Klay Thompson will present a different challenge. All three are quick and can shoot lights-out.
The Bulls will need a better game from Hamilton tonight.
Noah must, handle a smaller Warriors frontcourt and not take so many shots. Twelve shot-attempts is too many if the shot quality is questionable as it was last night. Noah has improved his jumper, but he is best at running the floor and helping with the pick-and-roll.
Improvement from the free-throw line will be a key to tonight's game, and the Bulls must settle down on the offensive end to win tonight at Golden State. Another sluggish start and I do not believe that the Bulls win.
But with Derrick Rose running the show and Luol Deng's clutch defense, maybe it won't matter.