The view from the top is mighty nice, but the Bulls will have their work cut out for them this week, with four games in five nights including matchups with the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors. We’ve been riding high for a while in Bulls Nation, but this week will be a grind for the Eastern Conference’s top squad.
Meet the Opponents:
• 1/11 vs. Pistons (8-30): …
• 1/12 vs. Nets (25-13): You might have had our number this season, but Kyrie is coming to town.
• 1/14 vs. Warriors (30-9): Remember what happened last time we met?
• 1/15 @ Celtics (19-21): We might be good, we might not be. Your guess is as good as ours.
Bulls Projected Lineup
1. Lonzo Ball
2. Zach LaVine
3. DeMar DeRozan
4. Derrick Jones Jr.
5. Nikola Vučević
Opponent Projected Lineup
1. Killian Hayes
2. Cade Cunningham
3. Hamidou Diallo
4. Saddiq Bey
5. Isaiah Stewart
1. Kyrie Irving
2. James Harden
3. Kevin Durant
4. David Duke
5. Nic Claxton
1. Stephen Curry
2. Klay Thompson
3. Andrew Wiggins
4. Draymond Green
5. Kevon Looney
1. Marcus Smart
2. Jaylen Brown
3. Jayson Tatum
4. Al Horford
5. Robert Williams III
Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week):
Bulls: Patrick Williams OUT (Wrist), Alex Caruso OUT (H&S P’s), Tyler Cook OUT (Foot), Javonte Green OUT (Groin)
Pistons: Jerami Grant OUT (Hand), Kelly Olynk OUT (Knee), Frank Jackson OUT (H&S P’s)
Nets: Joe Harris OUT (Ankle), LaMarcus Aldridge QST
Warriors: James Wiseman OUT (Knee), Draymond Green QST
Celtics: Brodric Thomas OUT (Back), Payton Pritchard OUT (H&S P’s)
Injury updates via ESPN.
• Bulls: 54.0 EFG% (4th), 13.2 TOV% (7th), 24.1 OREB% (29th), .238 FTA RATE (15th)
• Pistons: 47.8 EFG% (29th), 15.3 TOV% (27th), 26.3 OREB% (19th), .246 FTA RATE (8th)
• Nets: 53.2 EFG% (11th), 14.3 TOV% (17th), 25.9 OREB% (21st), .247 FTA RATE (7th)
• Warriors: 55.1 EFG% (2nd), 16.0 TOV% (29th), 27.7 OREB% (10th), .231 FTA RATE (20th)
• Celtics: 51.3 EFG% (24th), 14.1 TOV% (15th), 27.6 OREB% (11th), .240 FTA RATE (13th)
What to Watch For …
Bulls: The Bulls laid an egg on Sunday night in Dallas, but hey, you can’t win ’em all. After having their nine-game winning streak snapped, the Bulls are back in action with a jam-packed week that features four games with a pair of ESPN broadcasts against the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and Friday night. The Bulls have beaten the Nets twice already this season. Still, Wednesday, they will get their first look at the Nets at full strength with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden in the lineup, and then they’ll have a visit from Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and the 30-win Warriors, who throttled the Bulls in November. It would be an understatement to say it will be a tough week for the Bulls.
Pistons: The Detroit Pistons are in full tank mode, but we’ve seen the Bulls fall into trap games like this before, so playing solid basketball against the lowly Pistons and getting a win to open the week on Tuesday night will be necessary for the Bulls. Detroit turns the Ball over a ton (15.3 TOV%) which plays into the Bulls’ strength of scoring in transition, so I’d like to see the Bulls get out and run a bit against the Pistons.
Nets: While the Bulls might have taken the first two meetings between these teams this season, Wednesday night feels like a different game. Whether you like Kyrie Irving or not, he’s a darn good basketball player, and he changes the complexion and trajectory of this Brooklyn squad. This will be an excellent litmus test to see where the Bulls stand against a complete Brooklyn team that might be the most significant thing standing in their way of an Eastern Conference title this year.
Warriors: The Warriors are clicking on all cylinders and look like the odds-on favorite to win it all this season, so this will be the toughest matchup of the season for the Bulls, and now the Warriors have Klay Thompson back. Could the Bulls luck out and miss Klay Thompson on the back-end of a back-to-back for the Warriors? That’s a possibility, and it would be nice, but either way, Steph Curry is playing like 2016 Steph Curry, and he nailed the Bulls for 40 points in a blowout win for Golden State.
Celtics: I feel like the Boston Celtics have to be the most disappointing team in the Eastern Conference this season. Checking into play this week at 19-21 and on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, the Celtics have struggled to perform to expectation this season, but that doesn’t mean that the Bulls should take them lightly at all. After all, it did take an all-time performance to erase a 19-point deficit to top the Celtics the last time these two played.
Question of the week …
Last Question: Can Coby White stay hot, now coming off the bench with Lonzo Ball back in the starting lineup?
Coby White slid into his second-unit role last week and continued to score and shoot the ball pretty well. White shot 7-of-11 on Monday against the Magic, logged 17 points, and scored 21 on 7-of-8 (4-of-4) on Friday night against the Wizards. White scored 13 points on Sunday in Dallas to cap off a solid week for the third-year guard.
This Week’s Question: Can the Bulls stack up with the best of them? Meetings with the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors on the national stage will be a litmus test for this Bulls team and their championship aspirations. Win or lose, how they stack up and compete with those two teams this week will tell us a lot about this team. We’ve been riding high, but how will we feel this time next week?