Lots of similarities between the Wolves and Bulls so far in this young season.
Let us list…
Both teams are without their starting point guards, and so both, having been forced into a more egalitarian offense without their dominant distributors, share the ball well — 22 assists per game for the Wolves, 25 for the Bulls.
Both teams so far this season are among the elite in points allowed — Wolves 4th at 90, Bulls 5th at 90.4.
Both are slightly above average at rebounding the ball — Wolves 13th at 42.8, Bulls 14th at 42.4.
The Bulls are slightly below average in points per game, ranked 17th at 96. The Wolves are 22nd in the league at 94.2
How important are defensive rankings when stacked against already anemic (offensive?) offensive output?
All this is a
boring, stat-supported way to suggest these two teams have similar recipes for success: defend well, rebound well, and give the ball to the guy who has a shot.
Bulls probable starting lineup:
PG Kirk Hinrich
SG Richard Hamilton
SF Luol Deng
PF Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah
Boozer’s limitations have been on display all year and were brutally exposed in a 3-9 night Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder’s long and athletic Serge Ibaka. Mid-range jump shots (Noah, Boozer, Taj Gibson), movement off the ball (Deng, Hamilton), and spotty hero ball (Nate Robinson) seem to be the story for Chicago’s offense.
Wolves probable starting lineup:
PG Luke Ridnour
SG Chase Budinger
SF Andrei Kirilenko
PF Derrick Williams
C Nikola Pekovic
Whether the coaching staff is treating Roy’s knee pain with appropriate caution or it really is something more serious — Roy will be a game time decision as well as a season-long storyline. This is not really earth-shattering news, but let’s hope he’s ok.
Whether the Bulls use Boozer or Noah on Pek, Williams will have his hands full. His willingness to go to the rim paid dividends for his elbow jumper against Indiana. Pekovic, again, has an opportunity to wreak havoc.
The similar roles Taj Gibson and Dante Cunningham play for their teams are very similar — HA! — I mean, each supplies their respective team with superior defense, intensity and offensive continuity — and should dominate the 4th quarter playing time.
Bud vs Rip is going to be an exercise in off-ball movement.
My dark horse matchup is Robinson vs Shved — should Shved struggle, Malcolm Lee will have a chance to let his defense shine.
The matchup that will determine the game is AK47 vs Deng. Do-everything small forward powers collide in a battle of what is needed most? AK’s active hands, defense on Paul George, and patient passing provided the Wolves with enough savvy to pull out a nail biter Friday. His defense should be leaned on especially heavily against their leading scorer (18 points a game), Deng.