Preview & Chat: The Chicago Bulls

Kurt —  November 18, 2008

Records: Lakers 7-1Bulls 5-5
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109 Bulls 103.5
Defensive ratings: Lakers 93.9 Bulls 102.1
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Bulls Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Loul Deng, Drew Gooden, Joakim Noah

Lakers notes: After beating up the Lakers offense in a couple of posts around here, maybe we should talk a little bit about the positives.

First, the Lakers crash the offensive boards hard. They are grabbing 31.5% of their missed shots, which with their length means a lot of putback dunks and easy baskets. Along those same lines, the Lakers have been one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league (opponents grab just 24.4% of their misses).

Pushing the pace also has been good for the Lakers — they are getting 43% of their offense in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, and they are shooting a very good 57.7% (eFG%) on those shots. That despite those horrible pull up jumpers from Fisher.

The Bulls Coming In: The Bulls enter Staples Center with one of the best backcourts in the league — and that starts with rookie Derrick Rose. If you haven’t seen him play yet this season, you are in for a treat. Watching him to start the season reminds me of CP3 a couple years ago in the sense that you watched him and thought “damn, he is going to be very good.”

Matt from the brilliant godfather of hoops blogs Blog-a-Bull passed along these thoughts:

It’s been a real pleasure watching Rose so far this season. There was a worry that he’d take time to develop in comparison to Beasley and other rookies, but he’s already arguably the best player on the roster.

And the Bulls are not shy in relying on him, he’s 2nd on the team in usage rate (behind only gunnin’ Ben Gordon) and leads the team in minutes with 38 per game…and it’s been over 40 minutes in the week since Kirk Hinrich got injured.

He’s been surprisingly aggressive with his shot: it seems that teams are daring him to not pass, and his jumper looks better than advertised (including a somewhat respectable 35% on 3-pointers). But what really makes him special is the way he can get to the rim. His athleticism for his position is unmatched in the whole league. He’s tremendously quick, and has great strength and body control for a PG, to where getting hit around the rim doesn’t seriously alter his shot. And his touch when attempting layups is phenomenal.

While Rose and Gordon are starting to mesh well, the front line is struggling to adjust to the new game, and that is what is really hurting the Bulls. Matt explains:

Luol Deng is coming around but his game is not a stand/shoot one, so it takes some time to incorporate his off-ball slashing ability in with Rose. By contrast, Andres Nocioni has had some great games realizing that all he needs to do is find the 3-point line and wait for Rose to give it to him.

The truly bad news thus far has been the disappointing young frontcourt of Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. They’ve been reduced to spectator status outside of the lane, which is giving them little chance to be effective. And to make matters worse they’re not producing in the other aspects of the game enough to keep them on the floor…rebounding and forcing turnovers and then running the court so Rose can find them.

Keys To The Game: First things first, this should be an up and down game, with two athletic teams that want to get out and run (fifth and sixth in the league in pace this young season). In these instances, the team that plays the best transition defense gets the upper hand.

The Lakers, however, may want to slow it down a little. The Bulls with Noah/Gordon/Thomas along the front line are struggling to defend the paint — opposing fours are averaging 21 and 10 while shooting 51% (per 48 minutes), opposing centers are averaging 20 and 16. The Lakers have great production and rebounding out of their bigs, they need to get the offense going tonight by working the ball inside out.

The Lakers need to get back to what they were doing well defensively to start the year — with crisp traps and rotations in the half court. This perimeter-based Bulls team, as great as Rose may be some day, plays right into the Lakers plans. If they can push Rose, he is going to make a few great plays but a few big mistakes as well. This might be a team that can be rattled by the more aggressive defense. If the Lakers remain sloppy on rotations of the bigs, Rose could have a huge night.

The Lakers, particularly the bigs, need to play the screen and roll well because they will see a lot of it with Rose and Gordon tonight.

Where you can watch: Locally watch Fox Sports in LA or listen to the guys at AM 570. Nationally, check out the NBATV broadcast.