Wednesday night, the Bulls will look to give the city of Chicago something to be thankful for when they take on the listless Warriors in San Francisco. The game tips at 9:30 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:
A get-right game
Is it an exaggeration to call this game — only the Bulls’ 19th of the regular season, against the consensus worst team in the league — a must-win? Somehow, it doesn’t feel like it.
The Bulls need to win this game and, frankly, they need to win it handily. These Warriors are five-time repeat NBA Finalists only in name — Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala are departed for other teams and *deep inhale* Steph Curry (hand), Klay Thompson (knee), D’Angelo Russell (thumb) and Kevon Looney (hamstring) are all currently out with injuries of varying severity.
That leaves a team of scrappy youngsters and select journeymen (for a reason) in Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, Glen Robinson III and co. As a group, they’ve shown flashes. But ultimately, this is a team that’s lost 15 of their first 18 games and ranks dead last in the league in Net Rating (they’re 24th in offense and 30th in defense).
And despite the early-season mayhem swirling around Chicago with more ferocity than the prevailing westerlies off Lake Michigan: The Bulls are only one game out of the eighth seed in the woeful Eastern Conference and are staring down a five-game stretch against opponents with a combined 24-62 record. Granted, one of those is against a Portland team that just torched them at the United Center, but the point stands.
This has to be a win. It just has to be. But, as of this writing, that is certainly not guaranteed.
Silver linings to be wary of
Regardless of all that’s gone wrong for Golden State this season, it’s worth briefly examining a few Warriors playing well. If the Bulls defense continues to both defend ball-handlers aggressively off screens and scramble in their rotations on the back-end, these are the guys that could hurt them:
Glenn Robinson III: currently authoring a career year, averaging 12 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on 49.1% shooting (41.8% from three). He’s been prolific from the left wing behind the arc and certain midrange pockets. Beware of him attacking clumsy closeouts, a la Carmelo Anthony on Monday.
Ky Bowman: a revelation for the Dubs on a two-way contract at the start of the season. He’ll shoulder the load at point guard with Curry and Russell both out — he played 39 minutes in their matchup with Oklahoma City on Monday. Bowman is a capable shooter, pesky defensively, but the Bulls hope he doesn’t have the vision or savvy to pick them apart they way Damian Lillard and other accomplished point guards have, of late.
Eric Paschall: somehow, a dark-horse Rookie of the Year candidate and another second-round gem for the Warriors. He’s second on the team in scoring (excluding Curry, who has only played four games) and is an absolute bruiser. He’s only a 23.3% three-point shooter, but his physicality makes him a tough matchup on both ends for Lauri Markkanen.
And really, that’s about it. If the Bulls make a star out of any of the other role players on this misfit roster, you’ll be the first to hear.
Staying aggressive — offensively and on the boards — an imperative
The Bulls’ starting backcourt got off to a fast start in the first quarter against Portland on Monday, and looked crisp in doing so. Tomas Satoransky pushed pace, sank floaters and dotted assists, and Zach LaVine was crafty both in passing lanes on defense and slinking around screens off-ball on the offensive end.
I’d love to see the Bulls work the Satoransky-LaVine combo in more sets like this:
When he’s right, LaVine is a deadly spot-up shooter and this movement like this provides a different type of look for an offense prone to stagnation. And the Bulls didn't bring in Satoransky to be the 10th highest used guy on the team. The Warriors are undersized, undermanned and under-talented on the perimeter — get them in rotation and on their heels, and the shots will flow. The key is to make sure that urgency doesn't wane as the game drags on.
The Bulls were also absolutely decimated on the glass (55-37) Monday against one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA in Portland. The Warriors rank in the bottom third of the league in Reb% and DReb% (along with the Bulls), as well. If the Bulls can flip that script tonight, it means they’re finishing off defensive possessions, which they should be able to do consistently against — again, on paper — an inferior opponent.
But if the 2019 Bulls have proven anything, it’s that games are not played on paper, and anything can happen. Absolutely anything.
After being active but not starting for the past two games, Chandler Hutchison will rejoin the starting lineup tonight:
“Hutchison will start at the 3.” - Coach Boylen— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) November 28, 2019
Hutchison said before the Portland game that Boylen was waiting to give him extended run until he saw full-contact action. Per the Bulls, Ryan Arcidiacono will be a game-time decision.
For the Warriors, Draymond Green has been upgraded to probable.
Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.