Bulls @ Raptors Preview

Posted on November 11, 2009 | No Comments

Yes, we’ve all read, and I even wrote, about the fact that the Bulls can’t score, and how this will be a game with two very different teams. The Bulls slow the ball down and have found some success (4-3) doing that. We also know that the Raptors have had the most success against teams that lack firepower and don’t score a lot of points. On the surface, that’s the Bulls, isn’t it?

Well, here’s my problem with that theory. I don’t understand why the Bulls are a slow-down-team. They have one of the quickest point guards in the game, in Derrick Rose, and incredible athletes in the front court who seem born to run the court in Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas (when he’s not injured, which he is). Hell, even John Salmons is a player who would benefit from an increased pace. So the question is, why don’t they run? I’m guessing that has a lot to do with the fact that they lost their leading scorer (Ben Gordon) for nothing, and don’t have a goto guy to replace him, so they slow the pace down. I think this is a mistake.

Bulls Scramble Against Charlotte

The big problem with slowing the pace down is that the Bulls don’t really have great shooters. They have good scorers, in Deng, Salmons and Rose, but their three point shooting is awful. AWFUL! Only one player on the Bulls rosters is even hitting 30% of his shots from beyond the arc, and that’s Deng, who’s only taken 4 of them so far. He’s never hit more than 31 in a season, so it’s safe to say it’s not really part of his arsenal. In fact, the Raptors have already made more than twice as many three point shots as the Bulls have, with Turkoglu and Bargnani making more together than the entire Bulls team. Teams that find the most success slowing the pace down generally shoot the three well, because when a team is playing half court defense, you usually need outside shooting to open things up inside. Yes, they’ve had some success at it so far this year, but they’ve mostly had success against poor teams (Charlotte, Milwaukee) or teams that were struggling at the time (San Antonio, Cleveland), although they did take Denver down to the wire, last night.

Tonight will certainly be a test for the Bulls and their slow down pace. As much as the Raptors struggles, there hasn’t been a team that has been able to stop them from scoring. The amazing thing about the Raptors is they don’t play a game like the Suns of Mike D’Antoni, with their 7 seconds or less strategy. Right now, the Raptors are 3rd in the league in scoring (109.4), 4th in field goal percentage (48.5%), and second in free throw attempts. What sets the Raptors apart from a team like the Suns, is that the Raptors get to the line (mostly thanks to Chris Bosh), so even if their shot isn’t falling, they still score. It makes them impossible to stop and it’s why even defensive teams even end up getting into a running game with them.

Bulls Defense

The most interesting thing about the Bulls, however, is that their defense is what the Raptors are trying to play. They pack the paint and dare you to shoot from outside. The difference is that they do it well. It helps to have guys like Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Brad Miller, who can play good defense and intimidate inside. They give up a lot of three pointers, but they also contest more of them because their perimeter defenders don’t have to sag off the shooters as much as the Raptors do (and because they’re quicker).

These are all good signs for the Raptors, who have too many things working in their favour to lose. They’re playing at home, against a team coming off an emotional back-to-back game in which they thought they won, but didn’t, who doesn’t score a lot of points and who the Raptors have had a lot of success with in the past. The SHOULD win this game fairly easily.

I’m starting a new tradition here at the Picket Fence. Because people seem to like this sort of thing, I’ve decided to add some categories for my game previews.

BEST BATTLE

Rose More Than A Passing FancyPeople are going to no doubt talk about how Calderon is going to get killed by Derrick Rose tonight, but those people don’t know their history. Last season, against the Bulls, Calderon had three of his best games against the Bulls last season (19.7 ppg, shooting 70% from the field, and 14.3 apg) and the Raptors won all three games he played. Working more in Calderon’s favour is the fact that Rose hasn’t fully recovered from an ankle injury from pre-season. After a promising regular season and phenomenal post season, many expected stardom for Rose, who is, so far, underwhelming with his play. His averages are below what he did last season across the board. His scoring, assists, rebounding, shooting percentage and free throw percentage are down from last season while his turnovers are up. He’s played better the last three games but hasn’t had a game yet where he seemed to pull it all together. Is he going to do it tonight against the Raptors porous defense? Possibly, but he played 39 minutes last night, and I’m guessing that ankle will be a little tender. Still, I think it’s going to be a good matchup, but I see Calderon coming out on top in this one.

BIGGEST MISMATCH

Taj Blocks RajaChris Bosh didn’t have stellar games against the Bulls last season. He averaged 23.5 ppg and 11.3 rpg, but he shot only 40% against them. Chicago obviously plays him well, but he still manages to get his point and the Raptors won won 3 out of 4 games. Tyrus Thomas is the type of players that has always given Bosh fits. He’s long, quick and athletic. Of course there are two changes this time. Bosh isn’t the skinny player he was in the past that couldn’t bully any his defenders, and Tyrus Thomas isn’t playing. Instead, the Bulls are starting Taj Gibson. Now, I like Gibson. I think he was a great draft pick and the type of player the Bulls needed. A friend thinks he’ll end up being one of the better players from the draft (I wouldn’t go that far). What he isn’t, though, is a someone who’s going to stop Bosh. He’s a rookie and if he plays more than 20 minutes before either fouling out, or simply being manhandled by Bosh and sent to the bench, I’d be surprised. Off the bench, they have Brad Miller, who certainly has the toughness to defend Bosh, but quickness is not a word anyone would use to describe him. I’m going to predict that Bosh will get close to forty in this game, partially because of the mismatches, but also because of the next category…

WORST MISMATCH

Now, Bargnani had success against Chicago last season, so it might be a surprise to see that I’m predicting Bargnani to struggle. Bargnani went off against Chicago mostly due to the fact that they pack the paint and dare you to shoot, which obviously he can. But Noah is the type of defender made to guard Bargnani. He can get out on the perimeter and defender, is quick enough to stay with him if he goes by, but is long enough to alter his shot inside. After his games against Chicago last season, I’m guessing Chicago will make some adjustments to try and stop him. That would mean Noah coming out and guarding him. And while Bargnani struggling might seem disappointing, Noah going out and defending him actually helps the Raptors, who will have a more open lane inside (allowing Bosh to score more easily), and it keeps Noah off the boards, more.

So why would Chicago risk Bosh going off to defend Bargnani? Because they know Bosh will score no matter what, but the Raptors have more success when Bargnani scores.

Of course, you never know what a coach is going to do. If they decide to pack the paint, or have Noah guard Bosh, instead, than Bargnani might have a huge night.

Addition:

It occurred to me that Noah and Bargnani are two players who are the complete opposite. Bargnani is an outside shooting bigman who has an very versatile offensive game, but has a real weakness in the rebounding department and on the defensive end. Noah has almost no offensive game, but is a pest on defense and one of the best rebounders in the NBA. Am I the only one who thinks that combining these to players might work? And no, I’m not suggesting trading Bosh for Noah, since Colangelo isn’t in the habit of getting raped, but I just thought it was interesting.

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