The old gang is getting back together tonight. Michael, Phil and some other old Bulls are coming back to honor Scottie Pippen and retire his number 33.
Iâ€™m not going write an ode to Pippen, but if you want to read well done tributes to one of the top 50, Matt at Blog-a-Bull has done a couple of them. I will say this quickly: Saying Pippen just rode Jordanâ€™s coattails is the same as telling me that James Worthy just rode Magic Johnsonâ€™s coattails. Just because you play along side a once-in-a-generation (maybe lifetime) player shouldnâ€™t detract from your well-earned legacy.
The last time these two teams met the Lakers were in the middle of the â€œAll Kobe Show,â€ with him getting 43 points and Chris Mihm being the only other Laker in double digits (it also was the game where Tyson Chandler had a key block on Andrew Bynum late). Iâ€™m curious to sees if the Lakers spread the ball and shoot better â€” last game between these two the rest of the Lakers shot 42.1% (eFG%) but they have been much better of late and need to be tonight. (By the way, Kobe shot 51.5% eFG that night, so expect the Bulls to focus more on him.)
The Bulls offense has been sluggish this season, in their last 10 games they have an offensive rating of 100 (points per opponent possessions), down from their season average of 102 (21st in the league). The biggest problem is they donâ€™t get to the foul line â€” they are second to last in the league in the percentage of times they get to the line.
Last season it was the defense that led the Bulls to the playoffs, and that is something the Bulls have been getting back to. In the last 10 games their defensive rating is 101.9 (points per opponent possessions), 2.6 points better than their season average.
Last time these two hooked up it was Chris Duhon and Michael Sweetney who did the Lakers in, look for a little more defensive focus on them. Off the bench, Loul Deng has played well of late. Tyson Chandler, who has had shortness of breath issues lately, is expected to play. The other thing to watch, in the last 10 games the Bulls have shot 41.5% from beyond the three point arc.
Iâ€™m curious to see what Phil does with the starting lineup tonight â€” going smaller (with Odom at the four) has worked well the last two games, but doing that tonight could be more challenging. Essentially, youâ€™d force a Sweetney/Odom matchup, giving Odom a big advantage on the perimeter but Sweetney is much stronger inside and could get good post shots and offensive rebounds.
The next two nights should be good tests for the Lakers, after winning three in a row they play pretty good but not great teams. Weâ€™ll learn something about just how much the Lakers have grown the on the rest of this road trip.