" HAHA! And then the Hamburglar was like, 'Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?' HA HA HA HA HA HA! Oh my god, it was hilarious. ... You had to be there."
The Bulls are doing it wrong. Whereas the Kings thrive on offense and pull through (sorta) on defense, Chicago does the opposite: good boring defense, bad boring offense. That is not the way to win hearts and minds! Ask San Antonio! Ask Detroit!
Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich deserve the defensive credit. Noah is second in the league in total rebound rate, and eighth in blocks per game. Deng is averaging 18/9 as a combo forward, and playing the stout man defense he is reputed for. Hinrich is a gnat, as you well know. I have no idea how John Salmons's defense has been, but I do know that it was wildly overrated in Sacramento, and I know that Salmons is still trying to find his offense. (His True Shooting is 41.3 percent. Seriously.)
Still, the Bulls are 5-4, just like the Kings. The team's only road win happened to come in Cleveland, which tends to count for a lot. The other road games have been losses in Boston, Miami and Toronto. This will be the first game of the Bulls' annual circus road trip, which stinks, because theoretically you'd like to catch them at the end, when they have tired mind and cold brain stems. I have a feeling their brain stems might be warmish to steamy. As it were, this is probably the "easiest" stop on the tour (which also visits the Lakers, Nuggets, Blazers, Bucks and Jazz), and as such could either be Vinny Del Negro's Alamo or his Waterloo. Let's find out.
THE KEY BATTLE
Rose and Salmons vs. Udrih and Evans. Tyreke Evans took turns guarding Trevor Ariza (not well) and Aaron Brooks (well) on Friday, and I imagine the same will be true here. I assume Salmons will continue his pattern of shooting jumpers (a career-high five threes per game this season -- I know Ben Gordon, sir, and you, sir, are no Ben Gordon), though if he has a steamy brain stem in lieu of a warmish brain stem, he may remember Beno Udrih is not adept at defending the drive, and if he has the opportunity to line up across from Udrih may attempt to drive a little bit. We know firsthand Salmons is a fairly skilled finisher, and while Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson have improved as defenders at the rim there is no proof they can deny crafty finishers, of which John Salmons qualifies as such.
At the other end, Evans should be able to drive around or through either Bulls guard. You wonder if The Notorious VDN will opt to stick the long Deng (T.W.S.S.) on 'Reke, but then you realize that makes sense, which is something The N. VDN rarely does, so you stop wondering about that and begin wondering if Jarlsberg is a good choice for a grilled cheese sandwich. (Is it? If not, I have some Swiss, so let me know.)
As for Rose, I will say this: he is pretty good.
OK, so, in case you don't know, the Kings are opening up a buffet from 6-7 for any fan with a ticket. (The promotion is currently the splash page of Kings.com. Seriously.) If this game sells out, I predict that the Kings will immediately move to the Silver Legacy casino in Reno. I will be watching the attendance figures with baited (by roast beef and tiny cobs of corn) breath. The only hurdle is accounting for the notoriously healthy Brad Miller Reunion bump. Half of Loomis might come out!
John Salmons will pass the ball to Kevin Martin exactly as many times as he did all of last season.
The game begins at 7 PM, though the tip may be late if Scott Moak is allowed into the buffet. ("Please rise from your seats as we prepare to salute the ham smothered in au jus and garlic mashed potatoes and ranch dressing.") Game thread at 7, Game Thread II at 8, post-game thread at 9:45, recap in South Dakota.