The Golden State Warriors remain undefeated since the All-Star break, winning all four of their games. They will continue their road trip by taking on the Chicago Bulls for the second time this month. The Bulls themselves have been playing some great basketball and are 6-1 in their last seven games. Even with Jimmy Butler out, Chicago managed to take down the Atlanta Hawks in a pretty close game on Tuesday and will be meeting the Warriors on a back-to-back.
Frontcourt: In their last game against the Bulls, the Warriors didn’t have David Lee and Andrew Bogut. Taj Gibson celebrated the occasion with 26 points and 13 rebounds. Since then he has returned to his bench role but remains a potent threat on both ends of the floor for Chicago. In that game Joakim Noah was also highly impactful, coming up three points short of a triple-double. His offense comes and goes, but he is one of the best passing big men in the league and loves catching the ball around the elbow area or the perimeter and initiating the offense with a well-timed pass. Carlos Boozer’s offense comes and goes a little bit, since more and more of his shots are turning into mid-range jumpers. It’s a shot the Warriors don’t mind giving up, but when Boozer heats up he can punish a defense.
Backcourt: Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich combined for 29 points in their last game against the Warriors, but Butler has been out with a rib injury. In his absence, Tony Snell has played some two-guard and is a bit of a wild card. He dropped 20 points on the Denver Nuggets, only to be limited to six points against the Miami Heat.
Keys to Warriors Victory:
Lately O’Neal hasn’t exactly looked like a 35-year-old big man on his last legs. He followed up on his 23-point (10-for-13 from the field) performance against the Brooklyn Nets with another efficient 16 points and 10 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons. Over those two games he is shooting over 76% from the field. It’s silly to expect O’Neal to do this on a consistent basis, but with David Lee questionable and coming off a stomach flu, getting this type of offensive production from a highly unexpected source goes a long way in helping the Warriors win these tough road games. Playing some major minutes next to Stephen Curry will generally do good for your offense, and the open jumpers should be there for O’Neal, whether he comes off the bench or starts.
When you are up against a great defensive team such as the Bulls, you can probably expect to miss more shots than you usually would. This makes the rebounding battle that much more important. The Warrriors and the Bulls are both top 10 in the league in rebounds per game, and Chicago is 24-15 when they outrebound their opponents.
Chicago Bulls (30-26) vs. Golden State Warriors (35-22)
5:00 PM PST, February 26, 2014
United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: CSN Bay Area
Radio: KNBR 680 AM
Bulls Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kirk Hinrich
SG: Tony Snell
SF: Mike Dunleavy
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
Key Reserves: F Taj Gibson G D.J. Augustin