The Bulls have a tremendous opportunity to stack some wins this week before they take on the Miami Heat at the United Center. Considering this is the last real soft spot in their schedule, I think it’s safe to say they must take advantage.
Meet the Opponents:
• 3/28 @ Knicks (33-42): Stephen A. said we were better than you…
• 3/29 @ Wizards (32-42): Let’s try this again; the third time is the charm?
• 3/31 vs. Clippers (36-39): If only we were healthy…
• 4/2 vs. Heat (47-28): Ready for 0-17 against top-three teams?
Bulls Projected Lineup
1. Ayo Dosunmu
2. Alex Caruso
3. Zach LaVine
4. DeMar DeRozan
5. Nikola Vučević
Opponent Projected Lineup
1. Alec Burks
2. Evan Fournier
3. RJ Barrett
4. Julius Randle
5. Mitchell Robinson
1. Tomas Satoransky
2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
3. Corey Kispert
4. Rui Hachimura
5. Kristaps Porzingis
1. Reggie Jackson
2. Amir Coffey
3. Marcus Morris
4. Nicolas Batum
5. Ivan Zubac
1. Kyle Lowry
2. Duncan Robinson
3. Jimmy Butler
4. P.J. Tucker
5. Bam Adebayo
Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week):
Bulls: Lonzo Ball OUT (knee)
Knicks: Quentin Grimes QST (knee), Nerlens Noel OUT (foot), Derrick Rose, OUT (ankle), Cam Reddish OUT (shoulder), Kemba Walker OUT (personal)
Wizards: Kyle Kuzma OUT (knee), Vernon Carey Jr. OUT (hip), Bradley Beal OUT (wrist)
Clippers: Brandon Boston Jr. QST (illness), Paul George OUT (elbow), Norman Powell OUT (foot), Kawhi Leonard OUT (knee), Jason Preston OUT (foot), Jay Scrubb OUT (toe)
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) March 28, 2022
Heat: Tyler Herro QST (knee), P.J. Tucker QST (knee), Caleb Martin OUT (calf), Gabe Vincent OUT (toe)
Injury updates via ESPN.
• Bulls: 54.3 EFG% (6th), 12.9 TOV% (7th), 24.5 OREB% (30th), .243 FTA RATE (19th)
• Knicks: 51.2 EFG% (26th), 13.9 TOV% (14th), 29.5 OREB% (5th), .278 FTA RATE (3rd)
• Wizards: 52.9 EFG% (17th), 13.4 TOV% (10th), 27.2 OREB% (14th), .255 FTA RATE (10th)
• Clippers: 52.3 EFG% (22nd), 14.0 TOV% (16th), 25.3 OREB% (26th), .221 FTA RATE (29th)
• Heat: 54.0 EFG% (7th), 15.0 TOV% (27th), 28.1 OREB% (9th), .251 FTA RATE (11th)
What to Watch For …
Bulls: We’re here now if we haven’t reached must-win territory yet. With the Bulls checking in today in the fifth seed, these next three games against New York, Washington, and the Clippers represent wins that Billy Donovan and company must stack up. The team is currently 3.0 games out of the 4th seed, which means it will take a big combination of luck and victory for them to make up the necessary ground to clinch a home series. In the opposite direction, the Raptors sit just one game behind in the No. 6 seed, while the Cavaliers trail by two games. Take care of business, and the Bulls should at least stay where they are. Mess around and drop more games to inferior opponents, and the possibility to fall further down the standings isn’t going anywhere.
Knicks: The New York Knicks are cooked at this point, trailing the Atlanta Hawks and the likes by 4.5 games for the final spot in the play-in tournament. But you can not look past a Tom Thibodeau team regardless of where they fall in the standings. The Knicks are a great offensive rebounding unit (a huge advantage over the Bulls, who are dead-last), and they’re third in the NBA in FTA rate. Even with Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose headlining a lengthy injury report, New York still has a talented group with RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson in the lineup.
Wizards: The Bulls have had Washington’s number this season, and they’ll be without Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma in their third meeting of the season on Tuesday night. This is a must-win for the Bulls, even on the back half of a back-to-back at the United Center … and it all starts with keeping Kristaps Porzingis in check. The Unicron could be a matchup problem for the Bulls in this one, as we watched him put up 22 points and 12 rebounds in a November meeting with the Bulls while he was still with Dallas.
Clippers: The Clippers may be also missing one of their biggest stars, but they’re still not a team the Bulls can take lightly. The Clips are still 36-39 this season and fighting for playoff seeding, checking in today in the West’s eighth seed. They have recently fallen into a slump with five-straight losses, but they remain one of the better 3-point shootings teams in the league and have quite the pesky 8th-ranked defense.
Heat: There’s not much to talk about in this one. Every time these two teams have gotten together this season, the Heat have outclassed the Bulls in every facet of the game. The Heat (as of today) are rolling into this one pretty darn close to full-strength, and so are the Bulls (sans Lonzo Ball), which means it’s put up or shut up time for Billy Donovan’s crew. With that said, it’s possible Chicago might be finally catching this group at the right time, as Miami has dropped three-straight games and has shown some real problems holding onto leads.
Question of the Week:
Last week’s question: How big of a role does Patrick Williams play right off the bat? And does he look ready to contribute?
Patrick Williams has been a steady part of the rotation since he returned to the floor, averaging roughly 17 minutes per game. All things considered, he has a very promising debut against the Toronto Raptors with some nice plays on both sides of the ball, but it’s clear he isn’t yet fully comfortable in his new role. Likewise, the Bulls have yet to ask much of him on either end, but I expect that to change at least a little as we look toward a more physical postseason.
This week’s question: Does the new Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso starting lineup stick?
Elias Schuster contributed to this post