For those who celebrated, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and/or Hannukah!
This can surely be one hectic time of year, but I’m always appreciative of the extra time I get to spend with my friends and family. These past few days have provided a good opportunity to refresh as we look toward a new year – one where, hopefully, the Chicago Bulls will play a lot better basketball!
- Uh, what’s the budget for a White Elephant with all NBA players?
- After a surprisingly successful road trip where the Bulls went 3-1, they will return to the United Center tonight to tip off a four-game home stretch. The first battle will come against a 9-23 Houston Rockets team that currently sits dead last in the Western Conference. When we consider how the Bulls have recently played, this should be a game where they’re able to take care of business. Anything short of that will make this recent winning streak feel pretty darn hollow.
- Indeed, while the Rockets have a lot of potential, they are one of the youngest and least cohesive teams in the NBA. They currently hold the NBA’s 4th-worst net rating and turn the ball over more than any other team in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Bulls have held the league’s 11th-best net rating during this recent win streak, and they have a specific knack for forcing teams into turnover trouble. Chicago still ranks top-10 in opponent turnovers per game and scored the 7th-most points off TOVs per game.
- Having said that, two of the players responsible for generating a lot of those turnovers remain on the sideline. Alex Caruso is out for tonight’s game as he deals with a shoulder injury and also continues to work his way out of concussion protocol. Javonte Green also isn’t in line to play tonight with a “doubtful” designation on the official injury report. Knee soreness will now have him at risk of missing five-straight games.
- The “Big 3” is hoping to continue their recent dominance against the NBA’s third-worst defense. Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic have clicked in the way this team needs, being the first trio in franchise history to each score 20+ points in four-straight games. I got to give specific credit to Nikola Vucevic, who has averaged 23.3 points on 58.0 percent shooting from the field during this stretch. This has included two games with at least three 3-pointers, as well as two 12-rebound performances. Houston has a fun youngster in Alperen Sengun manning the center position, who is averaging 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds a night. But I expect the vet to show him how it’s done.
- Tonight will also be the Bulls’ first look at the No. 3 overall pick. While Jabari Smith Jr. has struggled mightily on offense to start the year (he’s shooting a grotesque 38.6 from the field), he has looked pretty fierce on defense. He’s currently third among rookies in total blocks this season and first in defensive rebounding. The guy has still found a way to make his presence felt, and watching how he stacks up against Patrick Williams should be fun.
- DeMar scoring 50 confirmed.
- Speaking of which, I’m still thinking about this.
- Even if he’s limited his jams this season, I bet Zach LaVine is still the best dunker in the league. Aaron Gordon is right up there, though. Just give this man a dunk trophy for the heck of it.
- The bigger question: Would Houston even want Harden back?
- I highly recommend the Cubs sign one.
- Keep your eye out, Blackhawks fans!