Saturday, December 1, 2012

Game #15 Preview, Bulls-Sixers: Grudge

Chicago Bulls (7-7) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (10-6)

The Opponent 
After an encouraging face-saving blowout victory against the Mavs on Wednesday, the Bulls look to manufacture a bit of momentum at home tonight against the 10-6 76ers.  

After somehow dropping one at Cleveland (still without Kyrie Irving) and then another one at home against OKC, the Sixers are riding high, with three straight wins against NBA stalwarts like Phoenix, Dallas and Charlotte. 

Philadelphia sits at 6th in the East right now, a couple of spots ahead of the Bulls; so, this would definitely qualify as a solid early season win

The 76ers are paced by a familiar cast of characters: PG Jrue Holiday (18.2 ppg, 9.4 apg), SF Evan Turner (14.3 ppg) and SF Thaddeus Young (14.1 ppg). As far as true big men go, the Bynum-less Sixers are getting a shade over 13 ppg combined from Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen. They go about eight deep, with backup PG Royal Ivey and the venerable Kwame Brown averaging 13 and 12 minutes per game respectively. 

After this past season's playoff defeat, this is a team with which the Bulls are fairly familiar. Especially after Evan Turner's BULLETIN BOARD comments back in April, the Bulls should be ready to go for what should be a hotly contested and physical game. 

Unlike Dallas, the 76ers are right in the Bull's neighborhood vis-a-vis team points per game, with them averaging just 93.4 ppg (26th in the league). Unfortunately for the Bulls, Philly does shoot the trey very well, currently sitting at 39% as a team (6th in the league). So, as with almost every other game, stopping the 76ers starts with good shots on the offensive end. Long rebounds for the Bulls could spell doom, as the Bulls' general lack of athleticism is not conducive to transition defense. 

If the Bulls can make this a half court game, this can very easily be the proverbial grind-it-out, Big Ten-esque win that the Bulls are built for.  

Points of Concern 
Jrue Holiday makes it all work for the 76ers, as their top scorer and by far their top distributor. Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson will need to orchestrate quality sets on the offensive end and keep Holiday in front on defense or things could get a bit dicey. 

Otherwise, without Bynum, this isn't necessarily a scary team on paper. They are an average rebounding team in almost every respect; while the Bulls are still a top 10 rebounding team themselves, they have shown lapses from time to time, and are definitely an order of magnitude or two inferior to their rebounding prowess of the past couple of years.

What Needs To Happen 
  • Evil Boozer. CTL+V. Boozer shot just 42% against the 76ers in the 6-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, failing to reach double-digit points in three of those games. In the Bulls' Game 6 series-losing defeat, he went a horrific 1-11 from the field. You would think that Philly is a team that Boozer can comfortably get his shots off against, but attempting to decipher the logic behind his performances is like trying to find meaning in modern art.  With that said, Philly slots in at 10th in the league in blocks per game, which is always a concern for a player like Boozer. 
  • Transition D. The 76ers have a hard time scoring in general, but they have scored 100+ in each of their last three victories. The Bulls are still fairly stingy in the half court game, but transition defense, especially on the heels of some aimless offensive sets (due to the real lack of break-you-down-ability), will continue to be of utmost importance. 
  • FIND. THE. SHOOTER. Offseason addition Jason Richardson had a big game Friday to push Philly past Charlotte; with Holiday and Turner doing most of the ball-handling/playmaking, the Bulls need to be aware of Richardson, who will sneakily camp out in either corner for open looks when the Bulls' on the ball D fails.
Useless Prediction Time
  • The Bulls' bench pitched in 50 of the Bulls' total 101 points on Wednesday. The bench won't be as prolific this time around, but I am looking for Thibs to continue giving the bench some more run. 
  • Noah has another big game on the glass; he pitched in a double-double on Wednesday (13 pts, 10 boards). Against another not so great rebounding team, Noah should put up some big numbers once again. 
  • The Bulls hold the 76ers to under 100 for the first time since the latter's aforementioned clunker in Cleveland. Pursuant to the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls 100-point Rule...
  • Bulls 97, 76ers 94.

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