“Chicago Bulls: Team to Watch (Feb. 1st)”

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Chicago’s upcoming trip could make (or break) their season. (Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

Every Monday, we’ll unveil a new team to pay close attention to for the upcoming week. The Chicago Bulls are featured in our first installment and it’s perfect timing! Dealing with various injuries and in the midst of seven-game road trip, this week has a chance to make (or break) Chicago’s season.

Here’s a quick lo0k at their upcoming matchups as well as a bold reason why you should tune in!

FEB. 1: BULLS at Jazz (9:00 ET, League Pass)

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Back to Back

Game #3 of Chicago’s “circus swing” is a tilt with the Utah Jazz, on the second night of a back-to-back. The Bulls were soft and slow with rotations during yesterday afternoon’s matinee with the Clips, falling 120-93.

Not only will it be interesting to see how they respond following one of the worst losses of the season, Pau Gasol called out everyone for being “undisciplined” – a bad sign from such a respected, veteran leader.

Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose combined for 43 in the loss but seemed a step behind the action all day long.

Rose, however, has looked spry lately, averaging over 17 points/game on 46% from the field (over 9 games). He definitely has an advantage over Utah’s Raul Neto and Trey Burke but as Bulls fans know by now, Derrick is prone to pick when he wants to be aggressive.

Wingz:

Gord

Utah hasn’t gotten a lot of press after suffering early injuries but is in the mix for the last playoff spot in the West (.5 GB POR). Gordon Hayward (avg. 22 ppg, 5.4 apg, and 5 rpg his last 10), a near All-Star, is a load to handle and young Rodney Hood is coming into his own.

Chicago struggles defending tall wings and Utah has plenty of them to rotate (Hayward, Hood, Joe Ingles). Someone out of Tony Snell or Doug McDermott (yikes!) will need to provide relief coming off the bench for the Bulls to steal one.

FEB. 3: BULLS at Kings (10:00 ET, League Pass)

Jimmy

Pick Me Up

Two nights later, Chicago will rumble with DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings. It’s a win-win situation for the Bulls (though they won’t publicly acknowledge it, of course), since they own Sacramento’s 1st-round pick (top-10 protected) in 2016. Essentially, if the Kings  avoid a bottom 10 finish, Chicago will have two first-rounders in the upcoming draft.

So a loss is more of a bittersweet victory, if you will.

The Kings are sliding (lost 4 straight) after winning five straight games recently. It;’s the perfect time for Chicago to strike, though it will be almost impossible to control Cousins given their current state up front.

Rose v. Rajon Rondo will be reminiscent of the past (epic battles between CHI-BOS during Rose’s early years), with both PGs trying to one-up each other throughout the game.

Though Rose and Jimmy will set the tone, this feels like a game Bobby Portis can do damage by extending Willie Cauley-Stein away from the rim and pounding the boards next to Gasol.

Chicago got killed by SacTown last year, featuring a Joakim Noah ejection and failed self-oop by Derrick Williams. Let’s see if they remember..

Parental Discretion is Advised:

DMC

*WARNING*

Boogie will annihilate the Bulls, there’s no question about it. He averaged over 30 points in January and will face a less imposing Gasol, smaller Taj Gibson and a defensively challenged rook (Portis).

A “Boogie Night” is a strong possibility.

FEB. 5: BULLS at Nuggets (9:00 ET, League Pass)

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Rocky Mountains

The air is thin. The Nuggets are mediocre but always give the Bulls trouble. The penultimate game of the week.

What does all of it add up to? An extremely difficult game for Chicago. Coming away with a victory in Denver will come via dominating the glass and establishing the post game.

Sounds elementary but in a Dec. 2 victory at the United Center, the Bulls pulled down 62 boards and Gasol tallied 26 points and 19 boards in a 99-90 victory. It was a poor outing in terms of energy and effort but taking care of the little things made the difference.

Will Barton will give Chicago’s second unit fits, so Fred Hoiberg might be forced to play Jimmy 40+ minutes, just to keep up the pace.

At the end of the day, Denver is average because they struggle to contain penetration…look for huge nights from Rose and Butler.

Key UnderDOG:

Doug M

F Doug McDermott

If the game becomes a track meet, Doug McDermott will have plenty of opportunities to contribute. He hit a big 3 on Dec. 2, which gave Chicago a lead (82-79) for the rest of the game.

Teams have been known to, well, forget about him in the flow of the game. “Attack mode” Rose and “methodical driving” Jimmy should be able to penetrate against a Nuggets team void of many defensive stoppers.

FEB. 6: BULLS at Wolves (8:00 ET, League Pass)

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Revenge or Trap?

Is there really such thing as a trap game when you’re playing mediocre ball and susceptible to lose to ANYONE on ANY given night?

No.

Chicago has a built-in excuse to lose in Minnesota in Saturday – it’ll be the fourth game in six days and the last portion of the “Western” part of their road trip (Minny is up north but work with me here).

Andrew Wiggins (31 points) and Karl-Anthony Towns (17 points, 13 rebounds) played well in an OT victory back in November, where the Bulls mustered a whopping zero points in the extra period.

Though Rose sat out, it remains one of Chicago’s worst losses to date…and they know it. It will be tough sledding on a back to back but this Gasol is capable of demolishing a young team like Minny, who features a lot of your talent still trying to learn the intricacies of NBA-level defense.

Chicago can work through Gasol but once again, Snell, McDermott and co. need to space the floor by converting open Js.

Key Number: 32%

Zach L

Minnesota shoots 32% from deep (29th in the NBA), an area the Bulls will definitely try to exploit. Packing the paint and shutting down inside opportunities for Wiggins and Towns will make it much more difficult for Sam Mitchell’s bunch to come away with a W.

Sometimes, it’s best to play the percentages. If the likes of Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Ricky Rubio can consistently cash treys, shake their hand.

 

Prediction: CHI has the talent to go 4-0 and the discipline to go winless. So, naturally they’ll settle for a split (2-2) this week!

#DOFGAME #DOG

-Jabari J.

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