What has Chicago done lately?
The past few games have been a roller coaster for the Bulls. Heading into Thursday night's contest with the Spurs, Chicago had lost six of their last eight games. However, the Spurs weren't up to task Thursday and got gored like they were in Pamplona. The Bulls won easily behind Derrick Rose's 22 points, 104-81.
Which Bulls player might be due for a big game?
For full disclosure, I am an unabashed fan of Jimmy Butler. In the first meeting with the Mavs, Jimmy Buckets almost dropped a triple double on Dallas with a 23-8-7 line. This is what the Bulls have come to expect from Butler as he continues to improve. He is averaging 20.6 points, six rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has come to rely heavily on Butler as he once did with Luol Deng. Butler is playing an average of 39.8 minutes per game so the Mavs should expect to see a lot of him.
How does Dallas stop Butler? The simple answer is they probably can't. Yes, the Mavs' defense is improving but the Bulls have a number of players that need to be taken into account. Derrick Rose is first and foremost on that list. Rajon Rondo will likely draw the bulk of the assignment of guarding Rose, being spelled by Harris. That leaves Monta Ellis on Butler. Monta may have it all but he needs to get some more defense. Since this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, Butler should have free reign to spearhead Chicago's offensive attack.
What's the biggest matchup to watch?
This one goes out to the old guys. Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol will face each other once more. It seems as though their careers will always be intertwined. It's easy to lump them together as European big men with a penchant for scoring and, at times, lackluster defense. The narrative pitted the two against each other and begged the masses to pick who was better. Sometimes it seems as though we are only supposed to appreciate one or the other but never both. Never the whole. And yet, in a way, Nowitzki and Gasol help to complete and define on another. They helped to usher in a new mentality towards European players. They proved that it wasn't just Americans who had the mental fortitude and physicality to play in the NBA. They also transformed the role of the big man with Nowitzki being the archetype of the stretch four with Gasol following suit. Both will go at it for the final time this regular season tonight. It should be something fun to watch.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Bulls?
Well, it would be nice to see the Mavericks out-rebound the Bulls. At the time of this writing, Joakim Noah is questionable to play. Maybe, if Noah is a no-go, Dallas can compete on the glass. However, Chicago is the fifth best rebounding team in the league so don't get your Windex out. Mike Dunleavy, the starting small forward, is also sidelined with injury.
The Bulls are banged up but they're no slouch. The scoring punch of Rose, Gasol, Butler, and Taj Gibson is enough to worry any opponent. Not only that but the Bulls can also ramp it up defensively, though this year not as much as in seasons past.
Dallas must knock down threes and force turnovers to gain the upper hand. This game will likely be another barn-burner. Chicago, though, is on the second night of a back to back and traveled to Dallas. On paper it should be a schedule loss, but Thibs will likely have his team ready to go.