The Bulls come off Saturday night’s morale-boosting win over the Pacers to host a Charlotte team looking to prove they have turned a corner this season.
Chicago’s win Saturday against the previously-unbeaten Pacers was built on the kind of play Chicago was expected to dominate with before the season began. They worked hard on defense – Luol Deng holding Paul George to a 3-14 shooting night – and the offense looked good coming off stronger showings against Toronto, Cleveland and Utah.
The Bulls have now won their last four games, all by a margin of at least 15 points, and will look to make it five before embarking on the annual “Circus Trip” of road games against Western Conference teams.
Charlotte flies into Chicago sitting with a 5-5 record and have some talking about a corner being turned since the signing of former Jazz big man Al Jefferson, though Cats fans will quickly remember the team won six of their first 10 last season before going 16-56 to end the year as the worst team in the league again.
Against the Cats Chicago will look to force Kemba Walker to create as much offense as possible, something he has failed to do all season. Walker is shooting an abysmal 34% from the field and has next to no outside threats around him. This allows opposing defenses to collapse on his drives and force him into tough, well-defended and inefficient shots, something the Bulls strive to achieve on every defensive possession.
Big Al has missed 7 of their 10 games already and is a doubt ahead of the game at the United Center, though whether he plays the Bulls game-plan remains the same. Derrick Rose will seek to continue to ease his way closer to the form he exhibited in preseason and looked as close to that as we’ve seen all season in Saturday’s win.
It’s very tough to predict the Cats having much success against Thibodeau’s overload-the-strong-side defense considering their lack of quality shooters to space the floor and punish overzealous Bulls rotations. That should allow Butler and Deng to rotate over to cut off driving and passing lanes around the ball and, should Big Al play, double him if Noah struggles with his size.
One big positive so far this season has been the consistent play of Carlos Boozer who has at times kept the Bulls within touching distance of an opponent. The shooting figures (57% from the field, 87% from the line) look good but the advanced stats belie other improvements too. His offensive rating of 117 easily bests any of his previous seasons and his assist percentages and PER are both at levels not seen since his All-Star seasons in Salt Lake City.
A win Monday night would set the Bulls on the right path as they kick off their annual long trip west to face the Nuggets in the first of six straight road games that includes trips to Portland and Los Angeles.