The Bulls took care of business last week, winning three of their four contests while playing shorthanded. But their job isn’t done yet. They’ve got a few more winnable games on the slate this week, before Joel Embiid and the 76ers come to town for a tough battle on Saturday.
Meet the Opponents:
• 2/1 vs. Magic (11-40): Remember that beatdown in Orlando?
• 2/3 @ Raptors (24-23): Round 3…
• 2/4 @ Pacers (18-33): Two words: buzzer-beater…
• 2/6 vs. 76ers (30-19): Joel Embiid is playing out of his mind right now. This one will be a doozy…
Bulls Projected Lineup
1. Ayo Dosunmu
2. Zach LaVine
3. DeMar DeRozan
4. Javonte Green
5. Nikola Vučević
Opponent Projected Lineup
1. Cole Anthony
2. Jalen Suggs
3. Franz Wagner
4. Wendell Carter Jr.
5. Mo Bamba
1. Fred Van Fleet
2. Gary Trent Jr.
3. OG Anunoby
4. Scottie Barnes
5. Pascal Siakam
1. Caris LeVert
2. Chris Duarte
3. Justin Holiday
4. Torrey Craig
5. Domantas Sabonis
1. Tyrese Maxey
2. Seth Curry
3. Matisse Thybulle
4. Tobias Harris
5. Andre Drummond
Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week):
Bulls: Patrick Williams OUT (Wrist), Lonzo Ball OUT (knee), Alex Caruso OUT (wrist), Derrick Jones Jr. OUT (knee)
Magic: Jonathan Isaac OUT (knee), Michael Carter-Williams OUT (ankle), E’Twaun Moore OUT (knee), R.J. Hampton OUT (knee), Markelle Fultz OUT (knee)
Raptors: Goran Dragic OUT (personal), Khem Birch OUT (nose), David Johnson OUT (calf)
Pacers: T.J. Warren OUT (foot), Myles Turner OUT (foot), T.J. McConnell OUT (wrist), Malcolm Brogdon OUT (achilles)
76ers: Ben Simmons OUT (personal), Shake Milton OUT (back), Furkan Korkmaz DTD (knee)
Injury updates via ESPN.
• Bulls: 54.2 EFG% (5th), 13.3 TOV% (8th), 24.9 OREB% (25th), .239 FTA RATE (16th)
• Magic: 49.9 EFG% (28th), 15.0 TOV% (26th), 26.0 OREB% (23rd), .227 FTA RATE (25th)
• Raptors: 50.4 EFG% (26th), 13.2 TOV% (6th), 32.8 OREB% (2nd), .227 FTA RATE (24th)
• Pacers: 52.2 EFG% (19th), 14.6 TOV% (24th), 30.4 OREB% (3rd), .241 FTA RATE (14th)
• 76ers: 52.8 EFG% (14th), 12.9 TOV% (4th), 24.1 OREB% (30th), .258 FTA RATE (4th)
What to Watch For …
Bulls: Aside from that ugly loss to the Spurs on Friday night, the Bulls were able to take care of business last week, winning three of four. Nikola Vučević had one of his better weeks of the season, which significantly helped the Bulls. Zach LaVine and Javonte Green being back in the starting lineup also helped the Bulls stay afloat, but the defense is struggling mightily. The Bulls can quite possibly remain afloat during the absence of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Derrick Jones Jr., but they’re sorely missed. Winning games they should is a must, and they’ve got a few of them on the schedule this week.
Magic: The Bulls laid a season-worst clunker last Sunday in Orlando, and it was a bit of a wake-up call for the Bulls. Orlando is a lousy team, and the Bulls need to beat them. Full stop. That’s all the conversation necessary for this matchup.
Raptors: The Bulls are 2-0 against the Raptors this season, but Toronto has played them tough in both of their two meetings. The Raptors have plenty of size, and Fred Van Fleet will likely be back in the lineup after the Bulls missed him in their matchup with Toronto last week. Gary Trent Jr. torched the Bulls for 32 points in 37 minutes last week, so the Bulls will want to pay special attention to him in this one.
Pacers: The Pacers are the best crappy team in the league. Their record just doesn’t match with the talent on their roster, even with Myles Turner sidelined with an injury. The Pacers still have Caris LeVert, Damantas Sabonis, and Chris Duarte has had a nice rookie campaign. The Pacers have plenty of talent, and they always seem to play the Bulls tough.
76ers: Philly dominated the Bulls in a pair of games earlier this season, and they’re playing great basketball coming into this meeting. Joel Embiid is averaging 34 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and 1.5 blocks in January, and the 76ers are 11-3 in those 14 games. Philly is a matchup nightmare for the shorthanded Bulls. A win here would be a big statement that the Bulls are a threat in the East.
Question of the week …
Last Question: Can Nikola Vučević step up and have a more significant impact on this Bulls team when they need him the most?
• @OKC (111-110, W): 26 PTS, 15 REB, 4 AST, 3 BLK
• vs. TOR (111-105, W): 17 PTS, 15 REB, 8 AST
• @SAS (131-122, L): 18 PTS, 8 REB, 4 AST
• vs. POR (130-116, W): 24 PTS, 14 REB, 3 AST, 1 BLK
The numbers speak for themselves; Vooch balled out last week, and it reflected in the win column as the Bulls went 3-1. Nikola Vučević playing this type of basketball will be crucial to the Bulls’ chances of weathering the storm for the next two months with Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Derrick Jones Jr. out for 6-8 weeks.
This Week’s Question: While there’s no replacing Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, the Bulls need to play much better defense. Can the Bulls shore up their defensive shortcomings of late?