Bulls Weekly Preview: 76ers, Trail Blazers, and Lakers - March 20-26, 2023

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Bulls Weekly Preview: 76ers, Trail Blazers, and Lakers – March 20-26, 2023

Chicago Bulls

It’s hard not to call the Bulls 2-1 record a success last week, but that loss to the Kings is still bugging me. That said, even with that one slipping away the Bulls won two games at home against two teams playing some good basketball and suffered a buzzer-beater loss to one of the best squads in the West.

The Bulls big three of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic all stepped up in a big way as well, which is encouraging. Vooch had double-doubles in all three games, LaVine continued his efficient scoring stretch, and maybe most importantly, DeRozan led the Bulls in scoring in all three games and looked a little more like the MVP candidate from last season.

This week, and especially the home-and-home series with Philly, are huge for the Bulls. There’s a little bit of a cushion for the Bulls in the 10-seed with a 1.5-game lead over the Pacers and Wizards. Indiana has a 4-game road trip this week with trips to Boston and Toronto. Washington also has four games, including matchups with Denver and Toronto. A 2-2 or 3-1 week for the Bulls would be a huge step toward the Play-In with just 12 regular season games left.

Meet the Opponents

3/20 & 3/22 vs 76ers: Joel Embiid is a perfect 12-0 against the Bulls in his career, and he’s healthy tonight. There’s a first time for everything, right?!

3/24 vs Trail Blazers: Everyone loves a good 9:00 pm tip-off!

3/26 vs Lakers: Still no LeBron, seems like it will be that way Sunday too.

Bulls Projected Lineup

  1. Patrick Beverley
  2. Alex Caruso
  3. Zach LaVine
  4. DeMar DeRozan
  5. Nikola Vučević

Opponent Projected Lineup

Philadelphia 76ers

  1. Tyrese Maxey
  2. De’Anthony Melton
  3. James Harden
  4. Tobias Harris
  5. Joel Embiid

Portland Trail Blazers

  1. Damian Lillard
  2. Anfernee Simons
  3. Matisse Thybulle
  4. Cam Reddish
  5. Jusuf Nurkic

Los Angeles Lakers

  1. D’Angelo Russell
  2. Malik Beasley
  3. Troy Brown Jr
  4. Jarred Vanderbilt
  5. Anthony Davis

Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week)

76ers: P.J. Tucker DOUBTFUL (ankle)

Trail Blazers: Jerami Grant QUESTIONABLE (quad), Justise Winslow OUT (ankle), Ibou Badji OUT (knee)

Lakers: LeBron James DOUBTFUL (foot), Mo Bamba OUT (ankle)

Four Factors

  • Bulls: 55.1 EFG% (12th), 13.7 TOV% (9th), 24.0 OREB% (28th), 22.3 FTA/GM (23rd)
  • 76ers: 56.4 EFG% (6th), 13.7 TOV% (11th), 25.7 OREB% (25th), 25.4 FTA/GM (6th)
  • Trail Blazers: 55.6 EFG% (10th), 14.8 TOV% (22nd), 27.1 OREB% (21st), 25.3 FTA/GM (8th)
  • Lakers: 53.8 EFG% (19th), 13.7 TOV% (12th), 26.7 OREB% (23rd), 26.3 FTA/GM (1st)

What to Watch For

  • Bulls: While the three-point shooting is far from perfect, the Bulls have been much improved in that category since the end of February. In six of their last 9 games, Chicago has shot 40% or better from beyond the arc. While the Bulls still aren’t shooting as many threes as I’d like to see, they’ve put up 32+ shots from deep in 3 of their last 4 games. That’s 4 more than the Bulls dead-last season average of 28.7 per game and a lot closer to the league average.
  • Bulls (cont.) Health is another thing to watch this week. I’ll start on the optimistic side, Javonte Green is listed as questionable for the first time since his knee injury and while we likely won’t see him tonight, there’s a real chance he gets minutes this week. He’ll be a very welcome boost back to the Bulls bench. On the negative side, Alex Caruso’s foot injury showed up again on Saturday against the Heat. He left after only a few minutes and didn’t return. Caruso is a huge part of what the Bulls do defensively, and in a week where they’ll go up against some potent offenses, the Bulls need to be at their best in that regard. Lastly, I mentioned it in the intro, DeMar, LaVine, and Vooch were great last week. They’re going to need to be great again this week, and we’ll need to keep seeing that urgency for the remaining 12 games.
  • 76ers: Not only is Joel Embiid likely to play both nights, but the Bulls are catching the Sixers at a rough time. Philly has won 9 of their last 10 games (including 8 in a row), and Embiid is playing some of his best basketball of the season. In each of his last 9 games, Embiid has scored 31+ points and hasn’t shot worse than 50% from the field. A few weeks ago it looked like Nikola Jokic was going to run away with his 3rd straight MVP but this Embiid-powered winning streak has brought the 76ers big man right back in the race. The Bulls have always struggled with Embiid’s size and strength down low. They likely won’t be able to stop him, but they’re going to need to find a way to make him work.
  • Trail Blazers: While Philadelphia is surging, Portland is really struggling. They’ve lost 6 in a row and 9 of their last 11 games. When the Bulls and Blazers met in early February, the teams were in very similar spots competing for the Play-In tournament. Since then, the Bulls and Blazers have gone in opposite directions. Portland now sits 3.5 games behind the Lakers for the final Play-In spot. Damian Lillard has been awesome still during this tough stretch for the team, but it hasn’t been enough to get Portland where they need to be. They’re a frustrated team going through it, and this is one the Bulls need to take advantage of after a difficult home-and-home with Philly, but if they’re not careful Lillard is capable of stealing one.
  • Lakers: Los Angeles has weathered the storm since the LeBron James injury going 6-5 in the 11 games he’s missed, but the last 5 games have seen them go 2-3 including a loss to the lowly Rockets. They’ve become a much more defensively-sound team since the trade deadline acquisitions. A lot can change in a week, and this game isn’t until Sunday, but Austin Reaves really seemed to give the lakers a jolt of energy with 35 points off the bench in their 111-105 win over the Magic last night. The Bulls will likely have some motivation coming into this game too, Patrick Beverley especially after being waived by L.A. earlier this season before signing with the Bulls.

Author: Matt Rooney

Matt is from the Chicagoland area and has been working in Chicago sports since 2015 with stops at WGN Radio, the Chicago Blackhawks, Stadium, and NBC Sports Chicago prior to landing at Betsperts. Matt covers just about everything for Betsperts and Bleacher Nation but focuses on the NHL and college football.