The Bulls have a tough slate this week, starting with a visit from the NBA’s best team, the Phoenix Suns, tonight. It doesn’t get much easier after that, with contests against Charlotte, Minnesota, and a pesky Oklahoma City squad awaiting them the rest of the week.
Meet the Opponents:
• 2/7 vs. Suns (42-10): The best in West …
• 2/9 @ Hornets (28-26): LaMelo will seek revenge …
• 2/11 vs. Timberwolves (28-25): We can be pretty pesky …
• 2/12 vs. Thunder (17-35): The softest spot in the schedule, or a trap game?
Bulls Projected Lineup
1. Ayo Dosunmu
2. Zach LaVine
3. DeMar DeRozan
4. Javonte Green
5. Nikola Vučević
Opponent Projected Lineup
1. Chris Paul
2. Devin Booker
3. Mikal Bridges
4. Jae Crowder
5. Deandre Ayton
1. LaMelo Ball
2. Terry Rozier
3. Gordon Hayward
4. Miles Bridges
5. Mason Plumlee
1. Patrick Beverly
2. D’Angelo Russell
3. Anthony Edwards
4. Jarred Vanderbilt
5. Karl-Anthony Towns
1. Josh Giddey
2. Tre Mann
3. Lu Dort
4. Darius Bazley
5. Mamadi Diakite
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), Zach LaVine QST (back), Coby White QST (groin)
Suns: Dario Saric OUT (knee), Frank Kaminsky OUT (knee), Cameron Payne OUT (wrist), Landry Shamet OUT (ankle), Abel Nader OUT (knee)
Hornets: Jalen McDaniels OUT (ankle)
Timberwolves: Josh Okogie OUT (quad), Taurean Prince QST (ankle)
Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander OUT (ankle), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl OUT (foot), Aaron Wiggins OUT (ankle), Isaiah Roby OUT (ankle), Mike Muscala OUT (ankle), Lu Dort DTD (face)
Injury updates via ESPN.
• Bulls: 54.3 EFG% (4th), 13.1 TOV% (6th), 24.7 OREB% (29th), .243 FTA RATE (14th)
• Suns: 54.2 EFG% (5th), 13.3 TOV% (8th), 26.9 OREB% (16th), .224 FTA RATE (26th)
• Hornets: 53.4 EFG% (9th), 13.0 TOV% (4th), 26.3 OREB% (20th), .228 FTA RATE (24th)
• Timberwolves: 52.5 EFG% (17th), 14.5 TOV% (21st), 29.5 OREB% (5th), .237 FTA RATE (15th)
• Thunder: 48.4 EFG% (29th), 13.6 TOV% (11th), 25.7 OREB% (25th), .216 FTA RATE (29th)
What to Watch For …
Bulls: A split last week wasn’t the worst outcome in the world, but it came with wins over the teams that they should beat and losses against the teams they need to beat. Nikola Vučević is averaging 22.4 points and 13.1 rebounds in 35.4 minutes in his last ten games, answering the calls for the veteran center to step it up with the Bulls battling injuries to key players. But, Vooch looked like he was on roller skates a few times against Joel Embiid, and now less than 24 hours later, he’s matched up with Deandre Ayton. My point is that even with Vučević stepping up his game, the Bulls still need some help for Vooch at the rim. They desperately need size, whether it’s a marquee name like Jacob Poeltl (probably not) or a role player like Larry Nance Jr. (more likely). Even with Vooch playing very well (with two 30-15 performances) the last week, the Bulls are allowing 56 points per contest in the paint in that span (30th in the NBA).
Speaking of Poeltl:
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) February 7, 2022
Suns: Phoenix comes into town with an NBA-best 42 wins this evening, and if the Bulls were completely healthy, this would be one heck of a dose of 90s NBA nostalgia. The Bulls and Suns at the top of their conferences was a thing in the MJ and Chuck days in Chicago and Phoenix, and a fantastic storyline for tonight’s game. It would have been even cooler if the Bulls were at full strength, and I wasn’t worried about them getting blown out on their home floor. The Bulls are on the back-end of a back-to-back tonight, and it’ll be impressive if they can simply hang around with the Suns. That’s where I’m keeping my expectations for this one.
Hornets: Again, injuries have derailed a fun storyline in what should have been Ball vs. Ball Round 2 this season, but Lonzo will be watching this one as a spectator while he recovers from knee surgery. The Hornets played the Bulls tough back in November, but Nikola Vučević (30), DeMar DeRozan (28), Zach LaVine (25), and Lonzo Ball (16) combined to score 99 points in a 133-119 victory for the Bulls. Alex Caruso added 14 points in that game as the Bulls were too strong for Charlotte.
Timberwolves: This is a matchup that the Bulls need to win, but it won’t be easy. Minnesota’s enjoying a nice season (28-25), and Anthony Edwards is a problem for opposing teams. The second-year guard is averaging 22 points per contest this season, and it doesn’t stop with Edwards. Karl Anthony-Towns is a menace at the rim. Patrick Beverley’s veteran presence in the Minnesota backcourt is a significant advantage for the Timberwolves. D’Angelo Russell is having a solid campaign, averaging 19 points and seven assists per game this season. This is a matchup that I’d be wary about if I were Billy Donovan and the Bulls.
Thunder: OKC and the Bulls wrap up their season series with the Bulls looking for a clean sweep after they staved off a comeback effort by the Thunder on January 24. Nikola Vučević had 26 points, and 15 rebounds as the Bulls topped Oklahoma City 111-110 in OKC. Ayo Dosunmu scored a season-high 24 points, and Zach LaVine added 23 in the winning effort for the Bulls.
Question of the week …
Last Question: Can the Bulls shore up their defensive shortcomings of late?
Short answer: NOPE
Here’s how the Bulls stacked up against the rest of the NBA over the last week on the defensive side of the ball:
• DEF RTG: 119.3 (26th)
• STEALS: 5.3 (26th)
• OPPONENT FAST BREAK POINTS: 16.0 (28th)
• OPPONENT POINTS IN THE PAINT: 56.0 (30th)
The Bulls continue to get blasted in the paint, allowing 56 points per game against opposing teams. They’re getting torched in transition defensively, and they’re not generating as many takeaways with Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso out, ranking 26th in steals in the last week. The defensive rating is in the bottom five of the NBA, and it showed on the scoreboard as they split their last four contests with Orlando, Toronto, Indiana, and Philly.
This Week’s Question: What will the Bulls roster look like this time next week? With the NBA trade deadline just days away (Thursday, February 10), will the Bulls stand pat at the deadline, or will they add some reinforcements to the roster?