The Big Picture: The Chicago Bulls lost their last two road games, at New Jersey and at Philadelphia. Those losses are unbecoming a championship contender. However, even without Joakim Noah, they have real talent, and real depth, and it's the first in a series of games for the Bobcats against higher-end competition over the next two months that will serve to either separate them from the playoff contenders, or solidify their standing among the top eight Eastern Conference teams.
And hey! Gerald Wallace is back! Woo hoo! Happy Gerald Day!
Musical Interlude: Everclear -- "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom"
Key to Victory: As noted yesterday, Derrick Rose is taking names and showing no mercy. D.J. Augustin will be hard-pressed to contain him in isolation, and -- perhaps counter-intuitively -- the Cats' "bigger" lineup with Kwame Brown might actually be worse at stopping shots at the rim. That's a Kwame vs. Tyrus Thomas debate, and most of us probably come down on the TT side*, but anywho... Rose has made improvements on threes and at the rim this season, and the Bulls are immensely better for it. Who will contain him?
*Does any site out there -- HoopData, 82Games, etc. -- have shot location data by lineup on the floor? That would be awesome.**
**UPDATE! Brett from Queen City Hoops chimes in via email with some info culled from his play by play data. While not based on precise shot locations, the Cats do appear to give up more layups and dunks when they go small than they do when they have Nazr Mohammed or Kwame Brown in the lineup. HOW-EVA! They, apparently do very well preventing shots close to the rim by going small in the front court and having Shaun Livingston on the floor. In all, there are too few minutes to come to any hard conclusions, but my original hypothesis -- that Tyrus prevents more shots at the rim than Nazr or Kwame -- is probably incorrect, if that's the only change made. Putting him into the game along with Livingston might well have a major effect on opponents' ability to make shots at the rim.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: The start and end of Kurt Thomas's career will completely surround the start and end of the other modern player from TCU to play in the NBA, Lee Nailon. Thomas was a rookie in 1996(!), while Nailon's career was from 2001-2006.