After a 4-1 road trip that included the first look at the full-strength Bulls, their first win in Orlando since 2007 and a thrilling victory in Miami to sweep the season series and take sole possession of 2nd place in the east, forgive the pun but the outlook couldn't be rosier.
The good news for the Bulls keeps on rolling in, as New Orleans Hornets star point guard Chris Paul (15.9 points, 9.6 assists) will not suit up against Chicago after a sustaining a concussion in Sunday's game against Cleveland. The heart and soul of the Hornets (37-28) will be sorely missed, as New Orleans has lost five straight to the Bulls, they of the 24-4 home record.
Save for a second-half giveaway in Atlanta, the Bulls played their best basketball of the year during a five game stretch and might have turned the corner on their enigmatic road play (17-14) this season. Hard to find faults, though, in one of the NBA's hottest teams. Since a 102-94 loss at Boston on December 3rd, Chicago is 10-0 against some of the top teams in the NBA, with wins over the Thunder, Lakers, Celtics, Heat (three times), Mavericks, Magic (twice) and Spurs.
Hornets To Watch For
With Paul out, expect Jarrett Jack (8.3 points, 2.7 assists) to receive heavy minutes. Forward David West 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds) handles much of the scoring load, and will be counted on to be the Hornets first option despite playing on a sprained ankle. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans' leading scorer when they played the Bulls in February, was traded to Sacramento. No two ways about it: The Hornets are playing short-handed.
Bulls To Watch For
Joakim Noah, who feasted on the Hornets last year to the tune of 15.0 points and 18.0 rebounds per game. With Paul out, Derrick Rose (24.6 points, 8.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds) will have the advantage at the point guard position as he looks to continue his MVP campaign. Expect coach Tom Thibodeau to go with big lineup combinations as New Orleans is slightly undersized. Noah and Carlos Boozer both figure to get a lot of opportunities in the paint.
Gametime is at 7:00 p.m. CST on Comcast Sports Net.
And for those who didn't see it, here is Rose taking on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the fast break... and winning. One of the highlights of the year in a season filled with them.