The Chicago Bulls (27-8, 1st in Central) open up their second half of the season against the rebuilding New Orleans Hornets (8-25, 5th in Southwest).
The Hornets might seem like an easy team for the Derrick Rose-led Bulls, but there are some factors that must not be overlooked. Being the first game after the All-Star break means that a team could either have fresh legs or have to shake off some rust, and this is the NBA so no team can really be overlooked.
The Hornets come out of the All-Star break with as many wins as the Bulls have losses, but their best scorer, Eric Gordon, has been out 31 out of the 33 games and will most likely be held out for the rest of the season.
The Hornets come in with the 29th scoring offense in the league (compared to the Bulls 9th) but can be very good on the other end of the court, only allowing 93.2 ppg which is good for 11th best in the league. The main matchup to watch will be the battle of the PGs; Jarrett Jack is a very underrated defender and is playing well considering the circumstances of following Chris Paul.
The Bulls could face a problem at the power forward position because the Hornets went into the All-Star break starting Chris Kaman, a 7-footer who normally plays center, who also happens to be a good rebounder and will be matched up with Carlos Boozer who as most Bulls’ fans know just doesn’t like to put up an effort on the boards.
It would not be surprising to see Thibs go to Taj, or even Asik, early if Boozer is getting hurt down low. My X-Factor for the game is post play, as Omer, Taj, Joakim, and Boozer face off against Kaman, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, and Rookie Gustavo Ayon (Coming on strong as of late, I was very impressed watching him against the Cavs as he grabbed 17 boards in 33 minutes of play and has double digit rebounds 3 out of his last 5 games).
This X-Factor has a chance to upstage the PG battle if it turns into a slower paced defensive battle. The Bulls should come out of the break healthy and have the return of Rip help them in the second half of the season.
The Bulls learned not to overlook teams as they were recently dismantled by the good rebounding Nets team, so they should come out fresh and ready to play against the Hornets….Hopefully.