When the Bulls glanced at their 2012-'13 schedule, a Jan. 26 meeting against the Warriors at home likely was nothing more than an afterthought. Golden State had gone just 23-43 in the strike-shortened season under first year head coach Marc Jackson the year before, and a roster without much overturn was not expected to do much damage in the deep Western Conference.
But here the Warriors stand at 26-15, fifth in the conference and 4.5 games back of the No. 2 seed Clippers in the Pacific Division, ready to keep their hot streak alive when they square off against the Bulls tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.
Arguably the biggest surprise in the NBA began the year 7-6 but won 10 of 12 during a stretch through the end of November and beginning of December to move to 17-8. The Warriors are 9-7 since Dec. 18, when the streak ended, but are playing their best basketball after home wins against the top two teams in the West -- a Monday win over the Clippers and a Wednesday win over the Thunder -- entering tonight's game.
The Warriors have been led by Stephen Curry, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after being perhaps the biggest snub from this year's All-Star game roster. The fourth-year combo guard is enjoying his best statistical season, averaging 20.9 points, 6.6 assists and a league-best 3.2 3-pointers per game, but was passed over on the All-Star roster for guards Tony Parker and James Harden and "wildcards" Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge. Seeing as Curry is on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average 3.0 3-pointers per game and 6.0 assists, combined with the Warriors resurgence this year, made him a likely candidate for the roster.
But the Warriors won't be unrepresented on All-Star weekend, as power forward David Lee was named to his second All-Star appearance when the reserves were announced Thursday evening on TNT. His numbers are close to career-highs -- his 19.6 points and 10.8 rebounds this year are close to his 20.2 point- and 11.7 rebound-averages in 2009-'10 when he was first named an All-Star -- but the Warriors' improved record and rebounding numbers are both indicative of Lee's impressive season.
While Lee has been impressive inside and Curry -- shooting better than 45 percent from beyond the arc -- has been as good as anyone from beyond the arc, the third part of the triple-headed monster is sophomore shooting guard Klay Thompson. The 6-foot-7 Thompson was considered the best shooter in the 2011 NBA Draft and didn't disappoint when he shot 41 percent from 3 after Golden State made him the No. 11 pick. While his percentages are slightly down in his second season, his 2.7 made 3-pointers per game are third in the league. Thompson's game hasn't fully rounded out -- he averages just 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game -- but he is a perfect complement to Curry and has made the Warriors' backcourt one of the most lethal in the West. Interesting to note, Thompson has made 49 of his last 51 free throws (96.1 percent).
Two different styles will clash tonight at the United Center -- Golden State is 8th in the NBA in 3-pointers per game (7.8) and second in percentage (39 percent) and are averaging 100.7 points per game; the Bulls are last in the NBA at 4.7 mad 3-pointers and 11th in percentage, averaging 93.6 points per game -- and the Bulls are looking to win their season-best third game in a row at home. Tune into Comcast SportsNet tonight for all your Bulls' coverage.