The Sixers travel to the Windy City for game two of their longest road trip of the season tonight to face the Bulls. Jaokim Noah is out. Taj Gibson is out. The Bulls are left woefully short in the big man department and the Sixers may just have a chance to get this trip started with a mini winning streak.
There's one thing to focus on tonight, and one thing only. Attacking the paint. Derrick Rose is quickly becoming an offensive superstar. He's shooting 40% from three, he's nearly unstoppable on dribble penetration. He's carrying the Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference and possible contention with Miami and Boston for a top seed in the playoffs. He's got a wing man in Carlos Boozer, now, and Luol Deng is healthy and somewhat productive, again.
Tom Thibodeau has brought his intense defensive system to the Bulls, but down their two best defensive big men, the Sixers need to win this game on the offensive end. Derrick Rose and Boozer may be a potent offensive combo, but they're also very poor defenders, imo. Jrue needs to be assertive on the offensive end, and the Sixers need to put pressure on those two guys whenever they can. Basic dribble-drives by Jrue, Elton Brand in the post with Boozer on him, Thad Young on isolation from the top of the key when Boozer's on him. The pick-and-roll with Brand and Jrue, involving both Rose and Boozer. Go to these plays whenever you can.
If this game is going to be won, it's going to be on points in the paint. Thibodeau will probably try to pack the lane, but without legitimate shot blockers out there, you can't be deterred. Blow by your man, get to the rim, get to the line. That has to be the mantra.
On defense, it's imperative that Jrue stay out of foul trouble, and if he can, force Rose to take pull up jumpers rather than get into the lane. I have my doubts on whether he'll be able to accomplish either goal, but as long as Korver's on the bench, the Sixers have the luxury of giving Jrue help. Look for Meeks to cheat off both Bogans and Ronnie Brewer, neither guy is a threat from the outside.
Prediction: Sixers 97, Bulls 95 (still on the close win streak here).
The tip is at 8pm. Game thread will be up at 6:30.