The Chicago Bulls (7-1) have opened the 2011-12 NBA season with a daunting road-heavy slate, playing six of their first eight games away from the United Center, but currently stand at an NBA-best 7-1 overall. You don't need to tell the Atlanta Hawks (5-3) how solid Derrick Rose and the Bulls have been so far this season. After building a 19-point third-quarter lead over Chicago in their earlier meeting on January 3rd this season, Derrick Rose scored 16 points in eight minutes and the Bulls ripped off a 25-6 run to tie the game and then pulled out the 76-74 victory with layups by Rose and Luol Deng in the final seconds of the game. The Hawks no doubt have that late-game collapse burned into their mind and will be looking to avenge the loss at home on Saturday night.
With so much going right for the Bulls, what are some lingering issues that may come back to hurt the team later in season? The focus over at Blog a Bull has been on head coach Tom Thibodeau's management of playing time so early in the season, with concerns that Derrick Rose is logging too many minutes in non-critical situations. Here is a taste of what Blog a Bull has to offer on that subject:
Thibs' minutes management will be under the microscope all season because of the schedule's nature, the 'what ifs' that followed the Bulls rising above all expectations despite injuries, and the fact that he consistently defies what observers perceive as conventional wisdom. His philosophy is unclear; is riding hot hands and momentum, disciplining and rewarding in-game, pre-planned with contingencies according to prior and upcoming loads? It's easy to jump at one, but all we can say for now is that it's sporadic enough to comfortably say that Thibs goes with his gut. The gut is well-educated with a compulsion for the video room and statistical analysis of how every three-, four-, and five-man unit on his team produces, but there's an unpredictability about it and we're all unsure how many parts of the cocktail are genius and how many are madness.
Meanwhile, Hawks fans have been far more than pleased with how well head coach Larry Drew has been protecting his starters from heavy minutes so early in the year.
Game day/time: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, 6:00 p.m. CT
Location: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
For updates on the matchup, stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago. For more in-depth coverage, visit Blog a Bull and Peachtree Hoops. News and notes from around the NBA are available at SB Nation's NBA news hub.