As a kid, I had a second favored team in addition to my favorite and local team, the Timberwolves: the Chicago Bulls. Of course, it could have been a Michael Jordan thing, as it was for many kids born in the late 80s, but I had all of the makings of a small-scale fandom. I had my Jordan jersey, collected magazine covers and basketball cards, and made it a point to catch their games on the NBA on NBC broadcasts every weekend. While I had never even been to Chicago, and completely jumped on the Bulls bandwagon, it's still the only time I've ever sort of rooted for a winning team.
Yet, my affection for the Bulls ended and I soon devoted all of my interest in the Timberwolves.
Now, I write for a Charlotte Bobcats blog. When I started, I never envisioned caring about the team as much as I have grown to. Every win brings a sense of joy, and each loss is a disappointment. At this point, there is no bandwagon to be a part, so you know that my affection for this team is truer than it ever was for the Bulls. Actually, it's kind of funny that my favorite player as a child now owns the Bobcats. While the Timberwolves may always be number one in my heart, I can promise you there is no one else walking around suburban Minnesota in a Bobcats or Rufus on Fire shirt. And you know what, I wear it proud.
So, for me, tonight is like two worlds colliding when the Bobcats play the Bulls.
The Bobcats and Bulls have split the season series so far this season, with the Bobcats taking game one in Chicago on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they come into tonight's game playing their third game in four nights, but they did have yesterday off for rest. BUT the Bulls did play the Heat last night in Chicago, so they'll be coming off of a tough game and into a road game with no rest.
The fact that the Bobcats have hung with the Bulls in their meetings this season as well as they have is fairly remarkable since they're just a game and a half back in the Central Division. This is of course no thanks to their 28th ranked offense in PPG. The Bulls have done this by remaining a top-5 defensive team and a top-10 rebounding team to compensate for their Rose-less offense.
When these two teams met last on January 28th, the Bobcats lost by just eight points. Defensively, the Bobcats didn't have much of an answer for Jimmy Butler off of the bench, and on offense they failed to make Joakim Noah a non-factor in the paint. The Bulls play at a slower pace than the Bobcats, and making sure they do not get caught playing Chicago's game will be important, or else the 'Cats fall into Tom Thibodeau's grind it out trap.
Conversely, the key to Charlotte's New Year's Eve victory was out-playing Chicago's bench, and having Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson playing efficiently. The Bobcats also did a much better job of mitigating Noah's presence in the post, which went a long way. However, the real difference in the two games was the Bobcats' free throw attempts to field goal attempts ratio. When they won by ten on NYE they posted a .300 ratio, but when they lost to the Bulls three weeks ago they managed just a mere .185. The Bobcats will need to scrap against this team, and being able to draw fouls, get to the line, and make foul shots is a part of that.
Since we were reminded of our preseason predictions this week here on this site, I'm hoping the team can push me closer to making my prediction of 22 wins come true. They took one from the Magic in their first game back from the All-Star break, and almost stole one from the Pistons, so I'm hoping the Bobcats continue to push me towards looking like Blogstradamus and bring within eight games of my preseason prediction. Of course, it'd be pretty great to see the Bobcats begin the second half with two wins in three games anyway.
The Bulls perspective: Blog a Bull
Bulls vs Bobcats coverage