Four-Pointer: Previewing the Chicago Bulls

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Joakim Noah may not have textbook form on his jumper, but he's carried the Bulls to the No. 4 seed in the East without Derrick Rose or Luol Deng.

What has Chicago done recently?

The Bulls come into the AAC on a tear, winning 8 of their last 10 games. Nor has it been a matter of beating up on Eastern Conference weaklings - they have wins over the Suns, Raptors and Warriors in that stretch. While Chicago will always be built around their defense, they've turned a corner by improving their play on the offensive side of the ball, with point totals regularly getting into the 100s. They beat Golden State by 20 points on Wednesday; this is a team playing its best basketball of the season.

Which stat, player or fact might surprise you about the Bulls?

With Derrick Rose once again out for the season, Chicago found an unlikely savior at the PG position in former Texas Longhorn great DJ Augustin. Augustin, on his fourth team in three seasons, looked headed out of the NBA after being cut by the Toronto Raptors in the middle of the season. He's taken over Nate Robinson's role as instant offense with the Bulls, averaging 13 points and 5 assists on 40% shooting. While he doesn't start, he closes out a lot of games for Thibodeau, who uses a lot of 2 PG line-ups with Augustin and Kirk Hinrich.

Which team stat might determine the game?

The Bulls bruising front-line of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson has made an absolute killing on the offensive glass this season, with an 28.5% offensive rebounding percentage, 3rd best in the NBA. As you are no doubt aware, that could be an issue against the weaklings on the Mavs front-line, who have a 73.2% defensive rebounding percentage, 23rd in the NBA. Rick Carlisle's love of small-ball line-ups could be severely tested by the Bulls, who stay big for all 48 minutes with big men who love to bang in the paint.

What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Bulls?

Dallas needs to take a page out of Miami's playbook. The Heat give up a ton of size to the Bulls, but they are usually able to overcome their rebounding disadvantage by winning the turnover battle, getting out in transition and scoring on Chicago before they have a chance to set up their defense. Tonight's game could be won or lost on pace - the higher the score and the more up-and-down the game becomes, the better the Mavs chance. If the Bulls turn it into grind-it-out, half-court game, Dallas could be in trouble.

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