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Charlotte Bobcats vs Chicago Bulls game preview

Jonathan Daniel

Gametime: 7:00 p.m. EST

Despite trading away Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for draft picks, the Bulls are still on the road to make the playoffs in the East. They've won 12 of their last 16 games, in fact.

To fill the space Luol Deng's absence has provided, the Bulls have spread his minutes out, mostly to Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, both of whom are very worthy beneficiaries. Deng is a great defender but Gibson and Butler aren't sieves and also provide pretty efficient offense. OK, well, Butler hasn't been doing that this season. Still, Gibson has been solid.

As we all know, Derrick Rose is out once for the season once again with a significant knee injury. Kirk Hinrich is also expected to miss some more time with a hamstring strain. This means the Bobcats will face D.J. Augustin for big minutes in Tom Thibodeau's system, which does well covering point guards' defensive deficiencies. Augustin's done well for the Bulls but can have difficulty in the pick and roll against hard hedges. He also isn't a great finisher around the rim so if there's someone there to contend his shots, he could have a tougher night than usual.

Joakim Noah is still the Bulls' unique piece to complete their defense and offense. His mobility, understanding of the game and agility controls the paint for Chicago as he does well shutting down opponents' offensive options and defending the rim. On offense, Noah doesn't possess a particularly threatening jump shot or any elite offensive skill other than terrific rebounding on the offensive glass. His jump shot is passable and he can finish at the hoop but he can also pass pretty well and visualize offensive flow and passing lanes fairly well for a big man. Underestimate him at your own risk.

The Bobcats are coming off a terrible loss in which they gave up 62 points to Carmelo Anthony but their starters should be well-rested with so much garbage time. Kemba Walker is still out so godspeed to the offense but the Bulls run a super slow pace so I'm not expecting Chicago to run away with a huge lead unless something goes awfully wrong.