The Sixers(10-6) head to the House that Jordan Built tonight to play the Chicago Bulls(7-7). This is the first time these two teams play each other after the Sixers pulled off the quasi upset against the Bulls in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
The Bulls and Sixers are in eerily similar positions in that both teams are missing their star players due to knee injuries. Andrew Bynum has been out indefinitely since preseason with ailing knees, and Chicago’s Derrick Rose has been sidelined since tearing his ACL against the Sixers in last season’s playoffs.
Thus, both teams have forged into the season with incomplete teams. But while Sixers are relying on their young talent to step up and hold things down sans Bynum, the Bulls are hoping that their veterans can keep the team afloat until Derrick Rose is back in form. So far, both of these strategies have been marginally successful.
Looking at their records, it would be easy to say that the Bulls have struggled more than the Sixers in the infancy of the season. However, as usual, a deeper look would challenge that assertion. The Bulls defense allows 92.3 point per game, fourth best in the NBA. They’re also 8th in rebounds per game at 43.6 and 6th in assists at 22.8. They also have a slightly more potent offense than the Sixers, averaging about 2 more points a night than Philadelphia.
Still, there’s a reason that the Sixers wanted a playoff draw against the Bulls last season and that reason has only become more pronounced this year. While most teams struggle with the Bulls depth and the consistent effort they give under coach Tom Thibodeau, the Sixers have the right combination of athletes and savvy veterans to match up well against the Bulls. The Bulls depth advantage has been even further squandered this year with the loss of Omer Asik(Houston), CJ Watson(Nets), Ronnie Brewer(Knicks), and former Sixer, Kyle Korver(Hawks).
Now more than ever, the Bulls rely on the experience of their starting five. But without Derrick Rose, there’s been a pervasive uncertainty about offensive production. So far this season, they’ve relied on ball movement, particularly the above average interior passing of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, to make up for an offense that lacks shot creators.
If the Sixers liked their chances against the Bulls last year, then they should love their odds tonight. But it’s been a long time since a team had an easy win against the Bulls. Here are some things to look for in tonight’s game.
Can Evan Turner keep it up? Over the last few games, E.T. has been playing the way everybody hoped the Chicago native would play since being drafted two years ago. Tonight will be a real test for him as he’ll be matched up against Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. Deng is an all-league defensive player with great length and instincts, and his backup makes up for a slightly smaller frame with quickness and tenacity. This will be a good test for Evan’s offensive progress.
Stop the interior passing. When thinking about the Bulls’ current sad state of affairs, consider this—Nate Robinson might be their best one on one scorer. So far, they’ve managed because Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and Carlos Boozer are all good passers in the paint(Noah, in fact, is second on the team in assists, averaging 4.1 a game). If the Sixers can disrupt that big to big passing, the Bulls offense will completely stall.
Be young! Be free! The Sixers have an athletic advantage over the Bulls. Now, the Bulls are one of the few teams disciplined enough to neutralize that advantage, but the fact remains that if this game turns into a track meet the Sixers should win. Thad Young in particular will have a field day if they try to stick the notoriously heavy-footed Carlos Boozer on him.
Tipoff is at 8pm EST, 7pm central.
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