Tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers(11-9) play host to the Chicago Bulls(12-9). Tonight’s game is the second in a season series of three games. The Bulls won the first meeting in Chicago, 93-88. Since that December 1st game, the Sixers have gone 2-2, while the Bulls have gone 3-2 after last night’s loss to the Clippers.
The storyline coming in to this game is the Sixers lack of production from their bigs. Statistically, the two best rebounders on this team are Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. The trio of Lavoy Allen, Spencer Hawes, and Kwame Brown are averaging just 13.2 rebounds per game—a full rebound less than ET and Thad. It’s hard to know how the Sixers can get improved play from their Centers. Spencer Hawes is rebounding at the same rate that he has for his entire career, same with Kwame Brown when adjusted for playing time.
The good news is that the Sixers core of Jrue Holliday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young has been steadily improving, particularly Evan Turner, who has finally found some offensive consistency. The Sixers might have a lot of glaring problems *cough* Andrew Bynum *cough* but at the very least, they have a young core that they should be able to rely on.
On the visiting side, the Bulls got on plane late yesterday after losing to the Clippers to come to Philadelphia, tonight’s game is the first in a stretch of six games against teams above .500. The trending story is whether the Bulls have enough talent to beat the better teams in the NBA. The Bulls will always be competitive in games because they’re well coached and they have good, solid veterans, but last night’s game was a stinging reminder of how badly they miss Derrick Rose and the extra dimensions he brings to their offense.
The Sixers are favored to win this game, but it should be a close one. Here’re some things the Sixers can do to lock it up.
Push the tempo. If there was anything that took the wind out of the Bulls’ sails last night, it was the Clippers ability to convert turnovers into points. Every time the Bulls had some kind of rhythm going, the Clippers seemed to get a few steals and suddenly would be on a 6-0 run. Last time the Sixers played the Bulls, Evan and Jrue combined for 5 steals. If they can repeat that performance or better it the Sixers will be in good shape.
Win the three-point contest. The Bulls are one of the worst 3pt shooting teams in the league. But, the Bulls have been better since Marco Belinelli moved to the starting lineup, and last night they shot 10-20 from range. If the Sixers can knock down their long distance shots, they’ll be able to create some distance that the Bulls will have trouble making up.
Contain Joakim Noah. This might seem counterintuitive since Carlos Boozer is the closest thing the Bulls have to consistent offense, but it’s a documented fact he struggles against players that are taller than him. Joakim Noah, on the other hand, has greatly improved his offense this year, and when he scores over 16 points, the Bulls tend to win. Noah’s a tough cover because he’s strong, he moves well, and he’s an excellent passer. All told, he can hurt the opposing team in ways Boozer cannot.
Tipoff is at 7:30.
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