When the Sixers last played host to the Chicago Bulls the result was a resounding 16-point win which pushed Philly 10-games over .500 for the first time in a long time and still signifies their best win of the season. Tonight, the Sixers enter with eight straight losses to teams with winning records.
There were a couple keys to the Sixers success against the Bulls last time. First, Jrue Holiday executed a brilliant scheme to slow Derrick Rose down. He completely took Rose's right hand away, forcing him to go left into a big who was waiting at the elbow to meet him on that side of the floor. Rose had no answer. Second, the Sixers kept the best offensive rebounding team in the league off the offensive glass (80% DREB rate). Third, they didn't let the Bulls score a ton of points at the line (11/16, total).
These are obviously great keys heading into this game. The biggest difference is Luol Deng will be playing, which gives the Bulls another offensive weapon on the outside, and a guy who can make a couple of plays for others if the Sixers are successful in limiting Rose's efficiency again. The good news is Deng will have to go against Igoudala, who has really been locked in on the defensive end recently.
If the Sixers can make this game about perimeter play, they've got a shot. If they can keep the Bulls from exploiting their tremendous advantage up front, another upset is not out of the question. If Noah, Boozer, Gison and Asik are a big part of the game, however, it's unlikely the Sixers will snap their string of losses to winning teams.
The Bulls have won five in a row, and they've finally got their preferred starting lineup on the floor thanks to the return of Rip Hamilton. Hamilton has been pretty bad in his 14 games of action so far this season, he's looked pretty much like the guy who was washed up in Detroit the past couple of years. Hopefully, the Bulls will identify Meeks on Rip as a mismatch and go to him way more than they should.
Thibodeau has done a masterful job in Chicago, so I'm really interested to see if his vision on the offensive end is equal to his overall reputation. The Sixers used a game plan to take away Derrick Rose's strengths, a great offensive coach would have a counter ready for that. My guess is we'll see a play they ran to perfection when they wiped the floor with the Sixers early last season. Rose/Deng in a pick/pop way out on the floor. The purpose of which is to get Jrue on Deng and Iguodala on Rose. Then Deng posts Jrue up. If they do go to that, Jrue should go way under the screen and stay with Rose. If they do wind up switching it, however, I don't think it's going to be automatic for Deng. Jrue has grown up a whole lot as a defender since late 2010.
This should be a fun game to watch if you like defense, let's just hope it's not another close loss.
The tip is at 7pm. Game thread will land around 5.