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Game Thread #2 - @ Chicago

So you thought the offense was ugly when it was Mark Blount and Mike James on the other side? Let me introduce you to Ben Wallace and Kirk Hinrich...

Seriously, the Bulls defense this season may end up not only as the best in the league, but possibly as the best of the decade. That doesn't come out lightly - the 2004 Spurs were the 5th best defensive team of all-time.

Chicago finished with the sixth best defense in 2006, and they added a dude who has been on the last five first-team All-Defense squads and has won four out of the last five Defensive Player of the Year awards. The team's other significant addition? A three-time second-team All-Defense center. Yeah.

The rebounds will almost certainly not bounce to the Kings as often as they did in Minnesota, and whatever clean looks the Kings were misfiring on two nights ago will likely come with more hands in the face tonight. If you're looking for an early breakout for Sacramento's offense, tonight probably won't be your night.

There's good news, though: Chicago is an awful offensive team. Period. Last season, they shot below average, they turned the ball over a ton, they didn't rebound the ball on offense particularly well, and they didn't get to the link often. And they added Ben Wallace. Yeah.

Fortunately for the Kings, the primary concerns with regards to the Bulls offense are the guards - Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon. Thankfully for the Kings, the team's most dependable defenders typically defend guards. Ron Artest will likely mark Gordon, which should make things difficult for the kid. (Though Gordon had one great game against the Artest Kings last season - 30 points on 50% shooting last Valentine's Day, a few nights after Gordon managed only 4 points on 9 shots in limited time during a blowout.) Artest might also be forced to mark Luol Deng (a former apple of our eyes) at times, even though dude has only taken 17 shots over the first two games.

Mike Bibby will have to control Kirk Hinrich. The best way to control Hinrich is to make him work hard at the other end, which is necessary for the Kings to be able to score anyways. Wallace and P.J. Brown aren't big offensive threats, so Kenny Thomas and Brad Miller should be able to focus on keeping those aging beasts off the boards.

On offense for the Kings? Brad Miller needs to shoot early and often, even if it just forces either Wallace or Brown away from the basket. Bibby has to find a way to score - even if the shot isn't falling, great players find ways to score. (Kevin Martin, not yet a great player, didn't have a particularly smooth stroke Wednesday, but put up 23.) Martin should be able to operate in the mid-range game and draw some fouls, as Chicago was 29th in defensive foul-drawing last season. (Meaning they fouled a lot, though Tyson Chandler certainly blew that number up significantly.)

Artest - well, he's going to shoot. And I'm not going to complain. 12 rebounds and 7 steals the other night, people. I'd prefer he defer or take it inside rather than gun from the perimeter as he's not a good perimeter shooter by any stretch of the imagination. But if letting him play Eddie House keeps his nose clean, I'm fine with it.

On paper, the Kings should've won Wednesday. On paper, they should lose tonight. I think I'd be happy to be confused, wondering why they lost to a lottery team before beating a contender. I think I'd be very happy.

5:30p on Comcast. Let's go Kings!